Flight Plan


The exhibition, Flight Plan: The Birds of Sunnylands, focuses on the sanctuary that Walter and Leonore Annenberg created for birds at their home in Rancho Mirage, California. Today, a wide and colorful variety of birds reside within, or migrate through, the 200-acre estate and the Center & Gardens. Through photographs, the exhibition tells the story of the Annenbergs’ careful cultivation of a desert environment where birds are encouraged to visit.

The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands commissioned National Geographic photographer Tim Laman to document the range of bird species found at Sunnylands. Over a two-year period, he captured detailed images of bird behavior including courtship dances, hunting habits, and mid-air acrobatics. A selection of the more than 130 species of birds that have been identified at Sunnylands are included in the exhibition. View the Sunnylands Birds List here.

The exhibition is on view from September 12, 2018, through June 2, 2019, at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.

Admission and parking are free.


Sunnylands Sanctuary

From childhood, Walter Annenberg delighted in birdwatching. Like many birders, Walter kept track of the variety of species at each of his homes and encouraged visitation by installing bird feeders. When the Annenbergs began to imagine the Sunnylands project, he made clear his desire for a bird sanctuary. Early landscape drawings reflect a design for the grounds that would attract a wide variety of birds.

The Annenbergs had the birds at their Pennsylvania home documented by avian artist Basil Ede. They explored the idea of doing the same for the birds at Sunnylands.
This exhibition represents the fulfillment of that dream. Using new photographs taken by National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, this exhibition features many of the birds that reside at Sunnylands or touch down along their migratory route.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)


The exhibition catalog, Flight Plan: The Birds of Sunnylands, contains an essay by Michaeleen Gallagher, Sunnylands director of education and environmental programs since 2011. She has worked in science education at museums and nonprofits for more than 20 years and served as president of the California Association of Museums from 2015-2017. She received her Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver.


The catalog is available

for purchase in the Sunnylands gift shop.