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Seeing Birds

On view January 28–October 2

Birds have always captured the human imagination. They are fantastically beautiful, occurring in a huge variety of colors and forms. They can fly high in the air and dive deep in the water, representing a freedom that inspires us. Through art, science, and careful observation, we have been able to probe some of the mysteries of birds. Still, they elude our grasp.

The exhibition Seeing Birds integrates art, science, and nature to ignite curiosity and wonder about the beauty and biology of birds, engaging visitors in an exploration of birds, their environments, and their evolution. It focuses on critical research on birds from the University of Minnesota, reviewing advances in our understanding of birds made through careful observation of their behavior and habitat and revealing current research that advances knowledge of our changing world.

The Bell Museum provides a window into the world of research at the University of Minnesota and the role and impact of collections-based research on our world. Seeing Birds highlights the ways that people learn from and connect with nature and the environment with birds as an entry point, while also recognizing the Bell Museum’s past and present contributions to the field of ornithological research, and to habitat and bird conservation efforts.

Explore the world of birds

Curator Sushma Reddy stands in the middle of the birds collection with several drawers open displaying coloring bird specimens

The Wonder of Birds

Step into the wonderful world of birds. From art to specimen, and illustration to photograph, experience different ways of seeing some of the wonderful traits that make birds special.


Black and white image of room with several bird specimen

Birds at the Bell

Birds are at the heart of the Bell Museum’s 150 years. Since 1872, our passion for birds has helped us build a collection, teach learners of all ages, and support the naturalists, scientists, artists and more. Take a look at how the Bell Museum has grown from a catalog of specimens into a place where everyone can explore nature, science, and art.


Two people holding and looking at bird wing

Researchers draw on both traditional techniques and cutting-edge tools to answer questions about birds. They start with careful observation. Then they find tools that can help them learn more. Researchers at the Bell Museum engage in many kinds of research, leading to new insights and sparking new questions.


Illustration of colorful birds
Ornithological Art

A Western tradition of ornithological art developed along with the scientific study of birds. Learn more about the evolution of bird art, from illustration for science to argument for conservation. See highlights from the Bell’s wildlife art collection.


Curator Keith Barker in lab coat holding a DNA research specimens

Revealing Our Past

Scientists study fossils and genetics to learn about birds’ past. They now know that birds descended from a group of dinosaurs, acquiring many of their unique traits in the distant evolutionary past. Research using DNA gives us new insight into the incredible diversity of birds we see today. See how the traits that make birds special evolved, and learn how DNA teaches us about relationships among species when you play “Who’s my closest relative?”


Children with binoculars looking out a window at birds

Birds and You

Birds are fascinating. They are a way many of us start to learn more about the natural world. They are also threatened by many of our activities, including the way we use land and build cities. Birds need our help more than ever. Learn how to get involved.

Related Programs

Thank you to our 150th Anniversary Sponsors

Text that reads: Presenting Sponsor with General Mills Logo underneath. Text that reads Supporting Sponsors with Minnesota Farm Bureau logo and Minnesota Turkey Growers Association logo

Special Exhibition Sponsors

Green text that reads: Dellwood Foundation     

State of Minnesota with loon in front and text that reads: Minnesota Ornithologists' Union