Michigan State University masthead

Birds of South Asia: History vs. Mystery

March 23, 2003 - February 8, 2004
West Gallery

Selected book plates preview the forthcoming Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide, a Smithsonian Institution project, led by Pamela C. Rasmussen, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals, Michigan State University Museum. The exhibit highlights the process and pitfalls of producing a scientific yet user-friendly book that covers identification, ranges, taxonomy, and vocalizations of one of the world's most spectacular and imperiled avifaunas.

History vs. Mystery revealed -- for birds of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Chagos Islands, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Southern Tibet, Sri Lanka and West Myanmar. Illustrations depict all species and plumage variations; range maps show species distributions and seasonality. Bird vocalizations (whistles, trills, chirps, warbles, quacks, screeches) help ornithologists distinguish species, while sonograms show pitch, pattern, rhythm, and tempo; visitors can make one of their own on the interactive computer. Researchers uncover and clarify problems with the historical record relating to species misinformation, misidentification and even fraud.

A computer kiosk kas been provided to enable visitors to experience the birds of south asia just as if they were there in the jungle. Several bird calls are showcased, and a program is set up to record the different sonograms of each bird call. A sample sonogram is shown here, and dispays the rising and falling in pitch of the bird's vocalisations.