Birds of Paradise add color to a gray Chicago winter at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Birds of Paradise add color to a gray Chicago winter at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Photo by Tim Laman/National Geographic A King Bird-of-Paradise (Cicinnurus regius) male performs an open wing display.

How about a taste of New Guinea’s exotic Birds of Paradise to brighten your day? The new exhibition Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution, opens today (January 18) and runs through June 16, 2018 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The exhibit features equal parts natural history, photography and science that gives visitors an in-depth look into the lives of birds-of-paradise.

Upon entering the exhibit visitors will be greeted with natural soundscapes, traditional wood carvings and a montage of the dozens of birds-of-paradise species. Once inside, visitors will have an opportunity to observe the extravagant plumage, crazy courtship dances and bizarre behaviors of these extraordinary birds born out of the groundbreaking research of National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes.

Paradise Riflebird (Ptiloris paradiseus) Young male performing practice display

Paradise Riflebird (Ptiloris paradiseus). Young male performing practice display

A series of hands-on activities, photos, maps and illustrations bring the New Guinea rainforest and the extravagant birds to life:

  • Challenge their friends to a bird-like dance-off in “Dance, Dance Evolution,” which encourages players to replicate the bizarre courtship dances that the males perform to attract the females.

  • Witness the transformations these species undergo to attract their mates through photos, videos, specimens and sculptures

  • Put themselves in the shoes a National Geographic photographer, testing their camera trigger fingers and trying to catch speedy birds on camera, while navigating tree branches to get the best shot.

  • Discover maps and diagrams of the birds’ ranges across New Guinea that showcase how the country’s environment encouraged the birds to adapt and evolve over time.

  • Explore old and new scientific knowledge about the birds-of-paradise, including previous misconceptions, vintage illustrations and information on how the giants of evolutionary studies, including Charles Darwin, were fascinated by the birds.

  • Play interactive games to learn how sexual selection works, and download the Species Atlas app which offers information on all birds-of-paradise species.

A special highlight of the exhibition are the stunning aracari, exotic serama chickens and native bobwhite quails that will be featured for a limited time during the run of the exhibition.

Red Bird of Paradise Paradisaea rubra

Red Bird of Paradise. Paradisaea rubra.

  • Serama Chickens and Bobwhite Quails – January 18 – March 19
  • Blue-headed Macaw and Ivory-billed Aracari – March 21 – June 18

For more information, visit or call 773-755-5100.

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