The Art and Engineering of Birds

Eli Whitney Museum

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2015 Summer Program

In 1857, New Haven’s Worthington Hooker in his Child’s Book of Nature advised young readers to find purpose in each of a bird’s parts. His science was not the revolution that Darwin would publish the next year, but his teaching was wise.

Look at the parts of birds. Follow Kate Samworth’s playful idea in Aviary Wonders Inc. (Clarion Books 2014.) Create model birds. Select and assemble beaks, tails, wings, legs and claws and feet from a vast catalog of parts. Ask yourself: why a short beak? why a broad wing? why such a fancy tail? Add collars, crests and combs: are these for decoration? Or do they have purpose too?

Construct birds that fly, that swim, that run. Give them flashy displays or colors that let them hide. Figure out the science of your birds and the birds we will watch every day.

Join a flock of your friends to construct a nest super-sized for you to share following Peter Goodfellow’s Avian Architecture: how birds design, engineer & build. (Princeton 2011)

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