October 8, 2016 – January 8, 2017 • Now closed
“When seen in this attitude, the Birds of Paradise really deserves its name and must be ranked as one of the most beautiful and wonderful of living things.”
— Alfred Russel Wallace, 1869
An epic adventure awaits! Join a groundbreaking expedition to the wild rainforests of Papua New Guinea to see all 39 known species of birds-of-paradise, and witness the spectacular plumage and dazzling courtship displays evolved in the absence of natural predators.
In 2004, National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and Cornell University Lab of Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes began a series of 15 targeted expeditions to document these bizarre birds. After eight years and 37 distinct geographic locations, they completed the first comprehensive study of all 39 known species of birds-of-paradise.
Found only in New Guinea and parts of Australia, the birds-of-paradise are a case study in the evolutionary power of sexual selection. Their fantastic plumes and bizarre courtship displays result from millions of years of sexual selection at work in an environment with plentiful food and no natural predators. This exhibition encompasses video footage, photographs, artifacts, and interactive experiences to create a science exhibition, art show, and natural history display all rolled into one!
Use your best dance moves to mimic the elaborate courtship dances of the birds-of-paradise! “Dance Dance Evolution” uses motion-capture technology to turn you into a male Parotia. Try the “ballerina dance” and “hop-and-waggle” as your friends play the female Parotia, voting on your performance.
From peculiar postures to outlandish ornamental feathers, the birds-of-paradise are masters of transformation. See the remarkable ability of these male birds to transform themselves in attempts to impress the females – from the kinetic sculpture of a riflebird opening its wings, to a frame-by-frame step-through of the superb bird-of-paradise’s dance.
The Victorian Study
Introduced to Europe by Magellan’s fleet in 1521, the birds-of-paradise have attracted the interest of illustrators, naturalists, collectors, and the wealthy and fashionable. Learn about early misconceptions and the feather trade, see period bird specimens and illustrations, and discover the work of famed naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.
Tim Laman and Ed Scholes’ expeditions are part of the latest chapter of scientific inquiry into the birds-of-paradise. See how their extensive photos and video are the contemporary analog to the Victorians’ physical specimens, and explore the evolutionary mechanism of sexual selection by playing the part of a bird in a touch-table interactive.
Find out about the events and programs we have planned to expand your Birds of Paradise experience!
Social Science: Flight
Friday, October 14, 7-11pm
Learn more about Social Science >
Birds of Paradise Sleepover
Friday, November 4, 6:30pm-8am
Learn more about Sleepovers >
First Thursday Late Night: Aviation
Thursday, November 3, 5-9pm
Learn more about First Thursday Late Night >
Discovery Days: Birds
Thursday, December 10, 10am-4pm
Learn more about Discovery Days >
How to Visit
General Public and Members
Reserve your tickets online, or in person at the box office! Admission is offered at 15-minute intervals and requires a general admission reservation. Become a member to take advantage of member benefits and discounts.
General admission discounts are available for eligible patrons at the box office. These include CityPASS holders, guest pass and voucher holders, educators, military, ASTC reciprocal admission, and more. Learn more about our discounts.
Bringing a Group?
We offer discounts for group registrations!
Are You an Educator?
Let us help you plan a field trip to bring your students to Birds of Paradise, as well as our TEKS-aligned general exhibits. We offer a free Educator’s Guide and other materials to bring Birds of Paradise into your classroom.