Shannon Pender

Birds of a Feather are Flocking at Harvard

Shannon Pender

When my parents were first dating, they spent a lot of time going on bird-watching dates. They would trek through the woods on hikes armed with a copy of a National Audubon Society’s field guide, trying to name the birds they saw.

Today, that same book rests in one of our kitchen drawers, right by the window that looks out onto our various birdfeeders. Years after my parents went on those dates, the book still gets plenty of use.

Luckily for my family and bird-lovers everywhere, the Harvard Museum of Natural History has premiered a new permanent exhibit: “Birds of the World.” Visitors will find over 200 representations of bird families inside the museum’s Great Mammal Hall.

The current exhibit replaces the previous exhibit, “Birds of North America.” It has expanded to represent a more global perspective on the feathered species that dot the skies. Developers of the exhibit spent months refurbishing display cases, dusting feathers and adjusting lighting to ensure that the bird specimens put their best feather forward.

Why such an expansive exhibit on birds? According to the museum, birds are “the most diverse land vertebrates on the planet, surpassing the biological diversity of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.”

The exhibit, boasting hundreds of specimens, represents this diversity in shape, size and color. It guides visitors both through birds’ phylogeny—the connections between different species of birds—as well as through birds’ biogeography, or the connections to where they live.

To see this impressive display of birds from all corners of the world, visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge.

Did You Know?

Twenty-five million years ago, the largest seabird known to science ruled the skies. With a 21-foot wingspan, Pelagornis sandersi makes today’s largest bird, the albatross, seem like a common pigeon with its 11.5-foot wingspan. Imagine seeing one of these giants soaring overhead on your next trip to the beach!

Photo Credit: Rizka

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