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Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Features Hummingbird Art

White-throated Daggerbill by John Gould

Antique drawing of a black-chinned hummingbird by John Gould

Black-chinned Hummingbird by John Gould

New exhibition features Victorian lithographs of exotic hummingbirds

Hummingbirds have captivated gardeners and birdwatchers for their delicate beauty and avian maneuvers.

— Linda Miller, Maximus Gallery Curator

SANTA BARBARA, California, USA, April 12, 2022 / — A new exhibit featuring 20 original 19th-century hand-colored lithographs of exotic hummingbirds opens at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on Friday, May 6.

Lining the walls of the Museum’s Maximus Gallery, the 20 lithographs in the exhibition represent a sample of 360 plates by British ornithologist and publisher John Gould. Part of his five-volume monograph The Family of Hummingbirds (1849–1861), these stunningly beautiful, intricate and colorful antique prints represent the definitive reference for these “living gems” in the Victorian era.

As a trained taxidermist, Gould didn’t see a living hummingbird until a decade into creating his monograph. However, he was able to study taxidermy specimens and developed a technique to capture the reflective iridescence of hummingbird feathers.

After a trip to the United States, he was finally able to observe the fuzzy and dynamic wings of these unique birds in person. Nonetheless, Gould continued to publish illustrations with birds in poses that evoked his romantic dreams more than their bumblebee physique. The exhibition counterbalances these mythical “jewels” with high-speed photography and the zipping sounds of live birds.

“Hummingbirds have captivated gardeners and birdwatchers for their delicate beauty and avian maneuvers,” notes Maximus Gallery curator Linda Miller, who has been waiting to share this exhibit since 2020.

Native to the Western Hemisphere, there are over 320 species of hummingbirds, mostly found in Central and South America. Of the 17 species found in North America, only six are regularly found on the central coast. Prints of two of these six will be exhibited as new Museum acquisitions: Black-throated Hummingbirds and Costa’s Hummingbirds.

The summer exhibition is open from May 6 to September 5 and is included in admission to the museum.

For more information, visit

Briana Sapp
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
+1 8056824711
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