The Wonder of Birds, a child friendly exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum - review

NMS Birds Mead's Spring Cuckoo

Did you know that birds are directly descended from dinosaurs?  The chicken clucking in the farmyard is a closer relative to tyrannosaurus rex than any other animal alive. 

It’s all explained in The Wonder of Birds, a child friendly exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum.

9. NMS Birds - Hambling's Heron in the shallows of the ThamesPerhaps their ancient ancestry explains why birds come in such a ridiculous variety of shapes and sizes.  Visitors to the museum are confronted by a massive condor guarding the entrance to the displays, with what looks like a tiny leaf hanging from it.  The “leaf” is in fact a humming bird, one of the smallest birds capable of flight, while the condor is one of the largest. 

If your child is unconvinced by the bird/dinosaur link, then you can point out a fossil showing a creature which is half way between the two – and not something you’d want to meet on a dark night!  There’s also an eye wateringly large egg of the elephant bird, now extinct but once bigger than a human.

A large photograph by  David Tipling appears to show a dark grainy stain.  Get your child to look more closely and he or she will see thousands of tiny birds – a murmuration of starlings.  Kids are accustomed to making things out of junk, so they may be less surprised than you are by the cuckoo which is made from an old fork, shears and a spring by the sculptor Harriet Mead.  Your child may be interested in the colourful jar of bird dried bird poo – politely labelled as guano – an important ingredient in gunpowder as well as fertiliser. The taxidermy specimens allow children to see creatures they will probably never encounter in real life including an albatross, an extinct but very beautiful paradise parakeet and a case of 140 kaleidoscopically coloured humming birds.  

If you are a bit of a culture vulture yourself, the exhibition offers paintings by artists who include Picasso, Hans Holbein, Maggi Hambling and Turner, along with exquisite feather based garments and all kinds of birdy artefacts.

The Wonder of Birds is open until September 14, 2014.  There are bird themed activities available for children in the summer holidays.  For more information log on to


This review was kindly written and submitted by Ann Kent.



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