If the cold weather has got you down, a trip to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven may warm your bones. An exhibit of about 25 pretty watercolor paintings of birds by Albert Earl Gilbert focuses on feathered friends from warmer climates.
The birds’ spectacularly bright, showy colors and elaborate plumage make the modest taxidermied creatures in the neighboring Hall of Connecticut Birds look downright dowdy.
Gilbert did field work for years, drawing and painting birds in natural habitats all over the world. His work has been showcased by the National Audubon Society. He also is famous for his painting of a more domestic bird, a Hooded Merganser, which won the 45th Federal Duck Stamp Contest in 1977. Great ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson called him “one of the half-dozen best wildlife artists in America.”
Gilbert seems particularly partial to trogons, adorable little jewels found across Central and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, whose striking coloration is complemented by distinctive, elegant tails. The Whitehead’s Trogon, from Borneo, are scarlet as males and school-bus yellow as females. Javan trogons are teal and blue with golden breasts. The Sumatran and Cuban trogons are especially colorful. In Sumatra, they have backs of blue, orange and green, chests of yellow, green head and gray striped wings. In Cuba, red, blue and white predominate.
Hornbills, with their long, bumpy beaks and relatively sedate coloring, aren’t as captivating as the princessy trogons, but they do look more majestic.
The queen of the exhibit is the Respendent Quetzal, a red-breasted, short-beaked native of Mexico with a long, feathery tail of lime green.
AN ARTIST FOR CONSERVATION: THE PAINTINGS OF ALBERT EARL GILBERT is at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, 170 Whitney Ave. in New Haven, until April 15. peabody.yale.edu.