Birds are all around us. As they move through the sky and land on tree branches, telephone wires and roof eaves, they provide a momentary sense of delight — an accessible way for everyone to connect with the natural world, even in highly urbanized areas such as Philadelphia.
A new exhibition opening Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University celebrates the remarkable diversity of birds, their important role in ecosystems, and people’s relationships with our avian friends. Conversations With Birds spotlights familiar local birds, such as house sparrows and cardinals, and goes beyond to introduce the variety of migrators that pass through on astounding epic journeys across the globe.
“The love of birds by casual observers, passionate enthusiasts and scientist experts alike is truly inspiring and can lead us all to deeper insights about nature and our environment,” said Academy President and CEO Scott Cooper. “This enlightening exhibition addresses the challenges birds face and how we can work as a community to address them.”
Conversations With Birds features:
- Amazing avian photography and video by local birders and wildlife photographers, including Anwar Abdul-Qawi, an Academy educator, and Tom Johnson of Cape May, N.J., a Field Guides birding tour leader.
- Bird-tracking products by Cellular Tracking Technologies that use cell towers, GPS, big birds, small birds, and what’s being used in research projects.
- Nest cam video footage of a peregrine falcon nest from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and of a bald eagle nest courtesy of HDOnTap.com and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
- Hands-on activities that explain the body architecture that enables birds to do what they do.
- An interactive media exhibit that shows five migratory birds that pass through the Philadelphia region on their seasonal passage between North and South America.
- Live or video demonstrations (depending on the day) of Academy ornithologists and volunteers preparing specimens from the Bird Safe Philly project for research and storage in the Academy’s world-renowned Ornithology Collection.
- Gorgeous taxidermy mounts of familiar local birds and also migrators that visit the area.
- BirdCast animations from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showing live bird migration forecasts.
- Informal presentations by a diverse range of regional birding groups and participatory poetry workshops by Drexel’s Writer’s Room on select Saturday afternoons. Visit ansp.org for updates.
Turn the Lights Down Low
Conversations With Birds opens just ahead of spring migration when millions of birds will wing through the Atlantic Flyway north to their breeding grounds. During this period, April 1–May 31, the partnership of Bird Safe Philly asks communities to participate in Lights Out Philly to minimize unnecessary lights by turning off, blocking or dimming artificial lights from midnight to 6 a.m. to help keep birds from becoming confused by the lights and colliding with buildings.
The exhibition shows that there are engineering solutions that can go a long way to helping prevent window strikes. Visitors also will learn about local birding groups such as In Color Birding and Bird Philly, as well as birding app options for the adventurous birder and the backyard kitchen-table pigeon watcher alike.
A highlight for many people will be the experience of examining up close the range of colorful bird specimens from the Academy’s collection. The collection ranks among the 10 largest and taxonomically most complete bird collections in the world, with over 205,000 study skins from over 7,000 species, and also over 17,000 tissue samples. These invaluable resources are available to researchers around the world studying climate change, species decline and avian parasites (Academy curator Jason Weckstein’s specialty) to name a few issues.
Conversations With Birds is free with general museum admission and on view through Sunday, May 21. To purchase tickets, visit our website.