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Birds of Paradise lands in Downtown Dallas museum

MIKE MCGEE | 11/13/2016, 7:37 p.m.
The exhibition Birds of Paradise may provide families with a new option when it comes to family-friendly scientific activities, according ...
An interactive Birds-of-Paradise display allow visitors dance moves to mimic the bizarre dances of the male birds of paradise. Also included are six photos of from Birds-of-Paradise exhibit. Tim Laman

Eveline Kuchmak, manager of temporary exhibitions, and Krista Villarreal Moore, senior PR and communications manager at the museum, spoke with enthusiasm about the showcase’s unusual birds with vibrant plumage as they explained that Dallas was the only stop in the state for the traveling display.

“It hasn’t been to Texas yet, and I think birds of paradise are so fascinating because they’re just all these birds that you wouldn’t know anything about unless you had an exhibit like Birds of Paradise come to Dallas give the community an opportunity to see what the birds are all about,” Kuchmak said.

Moore continued that it took teamwork to get the presentation to the Perot.

“We have a very special relationship with National Geographic – it’s actually coproduced by National Geographic and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – and as an institution we have an entire exhibit hall dedicated to birds, and so we have a long history as an institution with birds and because of our relationship with National Geographic it just was a good fit and made sense,” she said. “It was an exciting opportunity for us to bring something from an exotic part of the world to Dallas.”

The rarity of the birds is due to the geographic isolation of New Guinea, Kuchmak noted.

“And then the diverse habitats within New Guinea that are also isolated from each other, so something very special that happened in New Guinea with these birds is an evolutionary process called speciation where, over the course of 20 million years, birds of paradise evolved from one single crow-like ancestor, and the diversity of colors and feathers between all the different species is fueled primarily by female biological choice,” which she described as females selecting the males as mates based upon having the most attractive traits.

And just as the U.S. places cultural meaning on birds – such as the bald eagle as a national symbol - birds of paradise have their own connections to their nation’s identity.

“From what I understand, the culture in New Guinea, for a long time they’d use the birds as a way to understand the world around them, and it goes a lot with their mythology and their belief systems, and that just passed on down the line,” Kuchmak stated.

One such bird appears on the nation’s flag, Moore pointed out.

“A lot of the cultural groups within New Guinea have used the birds of paradise as a way to celebrate change in seasons, and essentially just try to make sense of the world,” she explained.

Birds of Paradise will be at the Perot, located at 2201 N. Field St. until Jan. 8, 2017. An additional charge is required for entrance to the exhibit.