For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Conversations With Birds

February 18–May 28, 2023

children running into sunset with silhouettes of birds

Birds are all around us. As they glide through the sky and alight on tree branches, telephone lines and roof eaves, they provide a momentary sense of delight — an accessible way of connecting with the natural world, even in urban Philadelphia.

Opening in time for the 2023 spring migration, Conversations With Birds celebrates the many ways that we are inspired by these magnificent, feathered creatures, here in the city and around the world.

Discover the fascinating lives of local bird populations and the astounding migrators that fly through the region. Glimpse nest-cam footage of a peregrine falcon, and enjoy stunning avian photography and video by local birders and wildlife photographers. Explore unique bird architecture and flight through hands-on activities. Investigate real-time migration data gathered from BirdCast, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s forecast radar, and other innovative bird-tracking technology. Learn about the challenges birds face in urban environments and how you can help protect them by creating bird-friendly habitats or advocating for bird-safe changes in your neighborhood.

Plus, check the schedule for these additional opportunities:

  • Observe specimen preparation by Academy bird scientists and learn more about the institution's Ornithology Collection and its ongoing biodiversity and evolution research.
  • Join experts from local birding groups as well as Drexel’s Writer’s Room for activities and conversations.
  • Sign up for special birding excursions! Check back soon for more details.

Looking to get started birding yourself? Check out these tips and resources.

All exhibits are included with the purchase of a general admission ticket.

Avian Adaptations: Wing and Egg Demonstrations 
February 18 to May 21, 2023 
Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. 
Sundays, 1–4 p.m. 
Free with admission

There are 10,000 species of birds, and each has adapted to its environment throughout time to ensure its survival. Come learn how birds' wings enable them to soar, hunt, escape and dive by crafting wing models and testing different designs. Together we will examine replica nests and develop your own experimental egg shapes to see if you can crack the code to keep birds safe. Learn about the birds that call Philadelphia home and how we can help protect them while you explore specimens from our collection. This investigatory station is hands-on and fun for all ages. 

Conversations With Birds Saturday Events Series
February 18–May 21, 2023
Select Saturdays, 2–4 p.m.
Free with admission

Join the flock with our Conversations With Birds Saturday Events Series! Meet birdwatching and conservation groups from Philadelphia and beyond and learn why they are inspired by our avian neighbors. You’ll have the opportunity to meet members of local groups, write poetry, watch films and make art with people across diverse backgrounds and practices with an abiding connection to our fine-feathered friends. Find out how these groups created a place for themselves in nature not only out in the wilderness, but also in the suburban and urban environments that birds also call home. Learn how people who appreciate birds build a community centered around science, art, culture and engagement, and how you can join them on their excursions and bird-loving adventures. You might just find a flock of your own.   

How Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?
Saturday March 4th, 2–4 p.m.
A Writing Workshop With Writers Room of Drexel University

In How Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? we will create poetry, memoirs and short stories inside the Academy's new Conversations With Birds exhibit. In this workshop, we'll draw on the Academy's rich ornithological collection as inspiration for our writing, learning how we live alongside birds and exploring themes of migration and stages of life. We'll ask ourselves what we can do to improve our shared environments. Our workshop starts at 2 p.m. with a brief introduction from an Academy ornithology expert. Writers and patrons are welcome to join at any time throughout the event.

About Writers Room

Writers Room is Drexel's university-community literary arts program engaged in creative placemaking and art for social justice. We are a diverse, intergenerational collective of students, alumni, faculty, staff and neighborhood residents whose work demonstrates a desire for collaborative opportunities in our joint communities. Everything we do is free and open to all.

This workshop is part of an ongoing collaboration between Writers Room and the Academy of Natural Sciences, taking the form of a course that is made up of Drexel students, Drexel alumni and neighborhood residents.

Ornitherapy: The Power of Birdwatching With Holly Merker
Saturday March 11, 2–4 p.m.

Long to-do lists, digital demands and busy days! If we allow birds and nature to slow us down, we are practicing self-care. Learn why getting your daily dose of Ornitherapy is just what the doctor ordered.

Research shows that exposure to nature reduces stress, depression and anxiety while helping build a stronger heart and immune system. Birds are gateways into more profound experiences with nature, magnifying these benefits. Through observation, we can learn about birds and gain insight into our lives while exploring our connection to the world. Within the program, we'll delve into our relationships with birds, find out how to maximize the wellness benefits of birding and learn about the latest research on the power of nature for overall well-being.

About Holly Merker

Holly Merker is a professional birding guide, writer, wellness counselor and educator with a background in art therapy who uses birds and nature in her delivery of nature-based wellness programs for people of all ages. Holly shares her love of birds by guiding for the American Birding Association, National Audubon, Hillstar Nature and many other organizations. She is certified in wellness counseling, serves as a certified nature and forest therapy guide (ANFT) and founded The Mindful Birding Network. She was the recipient of the 2022 Conservation and Education Award given by the American Birding Association for her work in both those areas involving birds.

Holly is an author of two books about the wellness benefits birds provide us. These works include the award-winning book “Ornitherapy: For Your Mind, Body, and Soul” (along with Richard Crossley and Sophie Crossley, Crossley Books, 2021) and “Die Kraft Der Vogel Beobachtung” "The Power of Birdwatching," Freya verlag, 2023), coauthored with Angelika Nelson, PhD. In her free time, Merker spends every possible moment practicing Ornitherapy, which she credits in helping defeat breast cancer, restoring her health mentally and physically.

The History of Birds (in Art) With Darla Jackson
Saturday, March 18, 2–4 p.m.

Join us to learn how birds have shown up in art throughout history. Local artist Darla Jackson will showcase works across artistic mediums, cultures and periods. Following the presentation, Jackson will share how to create bird sculptures using clay, making simplified forms and using body position and texture to bring your artistic creation to life.

About Darla Jackson

Darla Jackson (b. 1981) is a sculptor living in Philadelphia. She received a BFA in sculpture from Moore College of Art in 2003. After receiving a John S. and James L. Knight Arts Challenge Grant in both 2011 and 2013, she founded the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, a membership-based community sculpture studio.

Jackson’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions locally, including galleries and museums such as the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Seraphin Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Woodmere Art Museum and a Wind Challenge exhibition at the Fleisher Art Memorial. She has also exhibited across the country at museums and galleries such as the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, California; the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, Delaware; and Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, New Jersey. She has shown internationally in Belgium and Germany and has lectured about her work at venues including the Barnes Foundation and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

Jackson currently teaches moldmaking and bronze casting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as animal sculpture workshops across the country.

Birdhouse Painting With Artist Serena Saunders
Saturday, April 8, 1–4 p.m.

Spring is upon us, which means many of our avian friends will soon return to the region! What better time to beautify and bedazzle birdhouses to welcome our feathered friends back to the area? Join local artist Serena Saunders for a birdhouse painting workshop. Bring your own birdhouse to make some "home improvements," or make an entirely new one inside our exhibition Conversations with Birds. This event is for all ages and welcomes all art abilities!

About Serena Saunders

Philadelphia-bred painter Serena Saunders is a full-time artist who balances studio life with homeschooling while operating her business, PassionArt Designs. This mompreneur incorporates work and home life into her practice. Though her concentration is in portraiture, Saunders also has meaningful work in the areas of sculpture and writing. With a fresh, color-strong perspective, her art speaks to our human condition — most notably that of our society's youth and women. Her often large-scale, abstractly bold and poetically composed paintings offer layers of narrative, almost as if her internal poet and painter are collaborating. With a color palette that gives her intricate prints a world of their own, Saunders works to intrigue the imagination while not only documenting the truth of the present but also speaking to what's possible in the spirit.

As an extension of her passion for working with and within the community, Saunders has found a home in mural work and is proud to have this form of engagement to create art for and alongside those who inspire her life's work. You will often find a matter of injustice juxtaposed with hope, which is fighting its way through the lines on canvas to prevail at the surface. Saunders cultivates intimate relationships with her muses; those connections, along with her spiritual studies, fuel the direction of her paintings. Pulling from a background in fashion design, she often creates the attire and shapes the staging in its entirety to grasp more creative control over the story being told. Her work is influenced by her compassion towards what it means to be born into struggle and the ability to find the beauty in it. This was nurtured during the decades she has spent teaching art and poetry at more than a dozen schools and non-profit organizations throughout Philadelphia and neighboring states.

Saunders was honored to serve as the Creative Ambassador for the City of Philadelphia. She seeks to contribute to what art is in her hometown with intentionality for women of color. What the artist prides the most are the beautiful and authentic relationships she has formed with her muses over the years and the freedom she has been allowed to paint their truths.

Saunders has shown in spaces such as galleries and international fairs, from Scope Miami as part of Art Basel to Canada and Sweden. Her murals can be found across Philadelphia's landscape, including in schools, corporations and her most recent unveiling at the historic Kimmel Cultural Campus.

Why Not the City?
Saturday, April 15, 1–4 p.m.
Red-tailed Hawks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway With Christian Hunold and Jon Woodworth

Photographers Christian Hunold and Jon Woodworth have spent years documenting the lives of red-tailed hawks along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Along their journey, they witnessed a different side of one of North America's premier museum districts — a home for countless wild animals. Hunold and Woodworth have gotten to know the hawk's habits and can recognize individual hawks with distinctive personalities.

Please join us for a presentation on a year in the life of the museum district's avian ambassadors as we share moments of boundless joy and times of terrible grief. Though the hawks thrive on the Parkway, vehicle collisions, window strikes and rodenticide exposure take their toll. In this presentation, we invite you to consider how cities can better accommodate the needs of birds and discuss some solutions for being better neighbors to our avian counterparts.

Bird-Puppet Making Workshop and Parade with Artists Yvonne Lung & Eurhi Jones
Saturday, April 22, 1–4 p.m.

From 1–3:15 p.m. inside our exhibition Conversations With Birds, Artists Yvonne Lung and Eurhi Jones will guide visitors in hands-on artmaking, creating paper-bird puppets, stars, moons, clouds, and a banner about the importance of caring for birds! The workshop will teach participants about bird migration patterns and ways to help birds in your community.

At 3:30 p.m. Lung and Jones will gather workshop participants into a puppet flock for a celebratory Earth Day Bird Migration parade procession around Swann Memorial Fountain (or throughout the museum in the event of inclement weather). The event is great for all ages, and all supplies to participate in the workshop will be provided. We encourage you to bring cardboard (shipping boxes, cereal boxes, etc.) from home to practice upcycling for the program.

About Eurhi Jones and Yvonne Lung

About Eurhi Jones

Eurhi Jones is a multimedia artist who primarily makes public art related to the natural environment. She is committed to combining art and activism to address the climate crisis.

Since 1999, she has been creating community murals with organizations like National Geographic, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Please Touch Museum, the Philadelphia Airport, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. This year, she is the lead artist for a large-scale climate justice mural with the Climate Justice Initiative of Mural Arts Philadelphia, collaborating with local artists, environmental activists, and indigenous advocates. Images of her work can be seen in an interactive exhibition about the climate crisis at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C.

In addition to murals, Jones works in a variety of media, making paintings, embroidery and sculpture, usually from repurposed materials. Natural phenomena, biology, sustainability and interconnectedness inspire her work. She is a gardener, working in her community to raise awareness about native plants, and is currently learning how to be an urban tree advocate through the Tree Tenders program. She also works with Sustaining All Life, which creates space for shared storytelling about climate grief and hope to ignite action. Jones holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She grew up in Swarthmore, PA, and now lives with her partner, artist David McShane, and children Tommy and Pearl, in Belmont Hills, Pennsylvania.

About Yvonne Lung

Yvonne Lung is an Asian American interdisciplinary artist with work ranging from sculpture and performance to video and social practice. Her work is about social change through interaction, learning what we have in common by using her heritage as a vehicle to address shared experiences despite cultural differences.

She received her MFA from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and her BFA from Texas Tech University. Artist residencies include Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Manymini Residency, Art Omi International Artist Residency, and Asian Arts Initiative’s Social Practice Lab Artist-in-Residence.

She received the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grant twice, a Jackpot Grant by The Nevada Arts Council, Fleisher Art Memorial’s Wind Challenge prize, and the Velocity Fund. She has exhibited in California, Texas, Nevada, Washington, Maine, and Pennsylvania.

She is currently an adjunct Instructor at Tyler School of Art and Architecture and Temple University and the Operations Manager at Asian Americans United. She has also worked as a Mandarin interpreter for U.S. Immigration Court and Homeland Security along the east coast.

Her latest project is the Philadelphia Chinatown Crane Building exterior mural, located on 10 th and the Vine Expressway.

She is the co-captain of the Philadelphia Chinatown Dragon Boat Team, of which she has been a member since 2009. She is a founding member of Practice Gallery in Philadelphia, and also a founding member of Radical Asian American Womxn’s Collective (RAAWC).

She currently resides with her partner, Dustin Sparks, also an artist, in NE Philadelphia, along with their yard cat, lil jimmy/meow meow/my sausage/gushigushi.

Ethical Bird Photography With Anwar Abdul-Qawi
Saturday, April 29, 2–4 p.m.

Ethical wildlife photography is the practice of being attuned to your surroundings and respecting plants, animals and people while photographing in nature. This presentation will cover ethical techniques in wildlife photography, such as animal calls, baiting, flashing, perches and other methods for getting the perfect images while respecting natural habitats. Using real-world examples, we will review proper etiquette for exploring parks, neighborhoods and public areas. The purpose of this presentation isn’t about who is right or wrong – we will engage in thoughtful discourse, exploring various methods used worldwide to make compelling images and limit our footprint on the environment along the way.

About Anwar Abdul-Qawi

Whether it's on the stage or behind the scenes, in the classroom or in the field, you can be sure you'll find Abdul-Qawi there. With a degree in zoology and biology from Delaware Valley University, he started working as a Conservation Educator at the Philadelphia Zoo. Searching for new ways to further himself, he currently works at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University as the manager of their Live Animal Program, connecting the public to the importance of conservation.

Drawing From the Collection With Artist Caitlin McCormack
Saturday, May 6, 2–4 p.m.

Join us for an artist talk from Philadelphia-based fiber artist Caitlin McCormack. McCormack will discuss how osteological displays of birds and other animals inform their work and delve into their process for developing their incredible crocheted sculptures!

Following the presentation, McCormack will bring out some of their one-of-a-kind artworks, personal artifacts and specimens pulled from the Academy's Ornithology Collection for an all-ages drink and draw. No experience making art? Not a problem. McCormack will guide doodlers and experienced illustrators alike through creative drawing exercises. All art abilities are welcomed, and drawing materials will be provided, though we encourage you to bring your sketchbook if you have one. One drink is included with registration.

About Catilin McCormack

Caitlin McCormack is a Philadelphia-based fiber artist who has participated in solo and group exhibitions at The Mütter Museum, Museum Rijswijk (NL), Mesa Contemporary Art Museum, The Taubman Museum of Art, Hashimoto Contemporary, The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Feinkünst Krüger (DEU), Vanilla Gallery (JP), Rhodes Contemporary (UK), Field Projects, MoCA Westport and SPRING/BREAK Art Show inNYC. Their work has appeared in publications including Juxtapoz, Hyperallergic, Smithsonian, The Guardian, Whitehot Magazine, Fiber Art Now and Bust Magazine, and their sculptures were the subject of an interview with Jim Cotter for Articulate on PBS. McCormack has worked as an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and Hussian College of Art and Design. They completed artist residencies at ChaNorth (NY), The Peter Bullough Foundation (VA) and The Wassaic Project (NY) and received a Joseph Robert Foundation grant in 2021.

Advance Film Screening of "With Hope" with filmmaker Matt Hewitt
Saturday, May 13 , 2–4 p.m.

Attend an advance screening of “With Hope,” a documentary film centering the experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people who reconnect to the natural world through the act of birding, and by doing so discover a profound sense of belonging, joy and hope. Featured in the film are members of a growing community of birders in the Philadelphia area, including: In Color Birding Club, Philly Queer Birders, and Feminist Bird Club Philly. Together, the film participants create space for themselves, which wasn’t there before and help provide access for those who haven’t always seen themselves represented in birding. The film also features bird species that mirror the histories and identities that watch them. Despite coming from different backgrounds, the people starring in “With Hope'' share a perspective of birds and of nature that continues to inspire, to challenge, to comfort, and to awaken delight, while enhancing their relationship with themselves, with each other, and ultimately with the world in which we live.

The film is great for all ages and runs approximately 30 mins. It will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Matt Hewitt along with film participants: Katrina Clark, teacher and board member of In Color Birding Club; Jason Hall, vaccine developer and founder of In Color Birding Club; and Elise Greenberg, school administrator and founder of Philly Queer Birders.

Support for "With Hope" was provided by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation and by Scribe Video Center.

About Matt Hewitt

Matt Hewitt (they/them/their) is a community-engaged documentary filmmaker, artist, scholar, and avid birder who addresses social and environmental issues in their work. Collectivism and the interconnectedness of humans and ecological systems drives their investigation. In their current work, they use documentary film to represent the positive effects of birding and being outdoors, both on individuals and communities, especially those of minority groups. Matt's research converges between Queer Ecology, Ornithology, Participatory Community Media, Natural History, Racial Discourse, Land Use, and Conservation Psychology. Matt is a Film Scholar at Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia and a recipient of the Independent Creative Production Grant from the Penn Sachs Program for Arts Innovation.

The Birds of Philadelphia With Jason Hall
Saturday, May 20, 2–4 p.m.

Join Jason Hall, founder of In Color Birding Club, to explore the birds of Philadelphia. Hall will walk us through some of the most iconic birds of all four seasons and where to find them. And yes, this will include our beloved eagles! From West Philly and South Philly, to North Philly and even Center City, Philly has a lot to offer birders of all levels of experience.

About Jason Hall

In Color Birding Club (ICBC) is a new non-profit organization founded on the principle that birding is for everyone, especially historically marginalized communities. ICBC focuses on ensuring Black and brown communities have a strong, joyful, consistent and meaningful access point to birding and nature exploration overall. ICBC focuses its efforts in and around the Greater Philadelphia area by offering bird outings, field trips, school supply fundraisers and bus sponsorships.

Conversation With Birds is generously supported by the LTM Family Foundation and the Marshall-Reynolds Foundation.