Orcutt was searching for a new exhibit to fill space at the
The result is -- pun definitely intended -- the EGGStraordinary EGGSibit at the
One big henhouse
The exhibit, which continues through
"We wanted to have bird eggs that are from the local area, for bird watchers and young amateur bird enthusiasts who might say, 'Hey, what's out here? What's out my window?' " Orcutt, the museum's director, explained.
Or if they go hiking or down to the beach and see a bird, maybe they can identify it from seeing the exhibit, she offered.
Almost all of the eggs come from species that breed in the county, said RenÉ Corado, collections manager for the
As Corado put it, the
"These are just for fun," Orcutt said. "The elephant bird egg is just gigantic."
Enough to cause a three-egg omelet to turn green with envy. An elephant bird egg can be more than 3 feet around and more than a foot long.
It all started when she visited the foundation, which has been tucked away in a nondescript
"I went there for a tour and I came out thinking, 'Wow, this place is amazing,' " Orcutt recalled. "And the knowledge they have there is something else."
In addition to the 1 million-plus eggs (from some 4,000 different species globally), the foundation also houses more than 20,000 old nests and more than 56,000 bird skins.
Orcutt asked if she could display some of those eggs, expecting to get a "no." But public education and outreach is another thing the foundation does, Corado noted.
Moving them in was a lesson in fragility; this wasn't the hurried crack of a shell on a frying pan rim on a workday morning.
For one thing, the bird egg shells are all hollowed out. And they are supersensitive, as Orcutt learned.
"I have long nails and RenÉ told me, 'Don't pick them up with those nails,' " she said, laughing at the memory.
Corado taught her to pour the eggshells into her cupped hand, or on to a swatch of cotton -- which is how they have them on display at the museum, under glass.
"I've displayed many things over the years," Orcutt said, "but nothing ever this delicate."
Bird fodder for the brain
The exhibit room features three wall murals that sweep the viewer through the various habitats in
Display cases with eggs that are found in each respective nook of nature are located below them. Various bird calls are piped in through the sound system.
The walls are littered with bird information cards -- all brightly colored, nicely offset and easy to read -- detailing their habitat, measurements and a few facts.
Here, we learn that a peregrine falcon can divebomb prey at speeds of around 200 mph -- take that, Indy car!
Acorn woodpeckers store their precious nuts by drilling holes in a single tree that by the end of autumn may have 50,000 holes in it, each filled with an acorn. Those birds picking off moths and insects as seen on televised sporting events are likely American kestrels, birds that often perch on stadium light standards or foul poles or goal posts.
The red-tailed hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that's a
"Egghead" trivia on the walls offers a question at the top of a drawn egg with the answer under a flap below. Sample: Hard-shell eggs are mostly made of what? Answer: Calcium carbonate, the same material as chalk and pearls. We also learn that a bald eagle's nest can be 12 feet deep, at least 10 feet across and easily weigh more than a ton.
A bone to pick with dinosaurs
The fun also includes four miscellaneous eggs that came from
Those last two might seem far-fetched. But a museum placard notes that while crocodiles and alligators are among their closest living relatives, these carnivorous dinosaurs have an even closer group of modern relatives with whom they share physical traits -- birds. Among other things, they have similar skeletons.
That's quite a lineage for these bundles of feathers. These days, birds are faring OK, Corado said. More and more chemicals are showing up in birds and more trash winds up in their nests, but it's not all bad news. He noted they get support from the
"They need help, always," he said, "but they're not that bad off."
Orcutt needed little convincing that this batch of shells was a blend of entertainment and knowledge worth showing.
"I thought spring eggs let's do it," she said.
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