RALEIGH — Take a walk into the dense rainforests of New Guinea and Australia and, with the help of National Geographic’s cameras, see all 39 species of birds-of-paradise display a kaleidoscope of brilliant plumage, bizarre courtship rituals and the amazing power of millions of years of evolution. For these airborne arrays of color, they enjoy a world with plentiful food and no natural predators — an environment that accurately provides their name. Beginning October 13, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts “Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution,” a traveling exhibition from the National Geographic Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology that highlights the first comprehensive study of the birds-of-paradise.
In 2004, National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and Cornell University Lab of Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes began a series of 15 targeted expeditions over eight years to document these bizarre birds. The fascinating stories of ground breaking research and adventure paired with amazing footage and photography are the foundation of this highly interactive exhibition. “Birds of Paradise” is a story of daring expeditions, world culture, extreme evolution and conservation, as only National Geographic and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can present — with stunning imagery, compelling video, soundscapes, artifacts, and engaging educational activities for all ages.
As you enter the exhibition, you are greeted with natural soundscapes, traditional wood carvings and a montage of the various bird-of-paradise species. You’ll experience the bizarre courtship dances that male birds perform to attract the females — through a unique “female’s eye view” video and with the help of interactive games like “Dance, Dance Evolution” that allow you to learn the birds’ signature moves by dancing along with them.
Photos, videos, bird specimens and a kinetic sculpture of a riflebird (one bird-of-paradise species) also show the transformations that birds-of-paradise undergo to attract their mates and the various moves that make up their mating rituals. Visitors can also manipulate artificial tree branches to trigger video footage of different birds displayed on their perches, with commentary from Scholes.
Other facets of the exhibition highlight the importance of birds-of-paradise to New Guinea. Maps and diagrams of the birds’ ranges explain how the country’s environment allowed them to adapt and evolve over time. Legends and folklore about the birds are also shared from past generations of New Guinea natives.
“Birds of Paradise” was co-developed by the National Geographic Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The exhibition runs through March 23, 2014. Tickets: Free for Members; $6 for Adults; $4 for Children (3-12); $5 for Students, Seniors (65+) and Military. Available onsite at the Museum Box Office and online via naturalsciences.org.