Paradise at the museum

King Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus regius

I am back in the Toronto area for a couple of days, running errands. The primary purpose of my trip was to bring the cats back to the adoption agency’s vet to be fixed, but while I was in the area I thought I’d take advantage to see a number of people who I don’t get to often now that I’m farther away, and run a few errands. One such errand was to visit the Royal Ontario Museum’s bird skin collection. I needed to have a look at some of their blackbird skins for the paintings I’ll be doing. There are some things that are just easier to see in person. I’ll write a bit more about the rest of the visit tomorrow when I have some extra time, but for now I wanted to post these photos of a King Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus regius.

King Bird of Paradise, Cicinnurus regius

I spent most of my time taking photos of the particular blackbirds I was interested in, but I couldn’t help but take a quick peek into one of the other cabinets nearby. This one held many of the birds of paradise, including this one, the King Bird of Paradise. It’s just tiny, only about 6 inches long from beak to bum, with an additional 10 inches of tail plumes. It’s the smallest of all the birds of paradise, but one of the most brightly coloured, with its flame-red back, bright white belly, and spots of brilliant emerald green. It’s native to the lowland forests of New Guinea and surrounding islands, and fortunately, unlike many of the birds of paradise, it’s rather common through its large range.

This may be the closest I get to seeing a bird of paradise for a long while (I do hope one day to visit that region of the world, though). The skins, even though they lack the character and vitality of a living bird, are still gorgeous nonetheless. However, the live birds are surreal. Check out this beautiful photo (obviously not my own) that I found on the web of the species; taken by “Robert” and posted to his Pbase gallery:

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2 responses to “Paradise at the museum

  1. When I was younger, we went to the ROM and I believe they had a lot of their skins out, or they were letting people in to see them or something. I can clearly remember being in a room I’d never been before or have been in since and all these birds. We thought it was pretty cool because you could touch them and we’d never been that close to a bird before. Unfortunately, my clearest memory of that day was that one of the birds had a broken neck… literally, it had a split in its neck and the head could fold straight back from the throat and was just hinged with a little bit of skin at the back of the neck.

    In any case it was really cool. I wish I could go back now, with the interest and knowledge that I have now and look at them again.

  2. What a privilege to go in and handle the birds like that!
    I see what you mean about the live bird looking surreal. I feel that way about White-winged Scoters.

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