The Smithsonian Gardens presents The Lost Bird Project, by renowned artist Todd McGrain, on the National Mall — an exhibition of five bronze sculptures of now-extinct North American birds. One of the 6-foot sculptures, “Passenger Pigeon,” has been gifted to the Smithsonian as a permanent display, as that bird marks its 100th year of extinction in 2014.
Sculptures of the Carolina parakeet, Labrador duck, great auk, and heath hen are on exhibit through March 15, 2015, in the 4-acre Enid A. Haupt Garden parterre, which has the Smithsonian Castle as its backdrop.
McGrain’s “Passenger Pigeon” is installed in the Urban Habitat Garden at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The Lost Birds stands as a testament to what we have lost and a reminder to preserve what we have left, according to McGrain, an artist-in-residence at Cornell University who began this project 15 years ago. He is the 2014 recipient of the Audubon Award for Art Inspiring Conservation.
“The sculptures are as large as humans and that parity encourages a sympathy as people approach them—they are undeniable,” McGrain said. “These birds are not commonly known, and they ought to be, because forgetting is another kind of extinction.”
McGrain’s Lost Birds statues have been placed at the Smithsonian in conjunction with an exhibition about the centennial of the passenger-pigeon extinction, titled Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America, presented by the Smithsonian Libraries and on view at the National Museum of Natural History through October 2015.
The passenger pigeon has great significance in the ornithological community. The last passenger pigeon, affectionately known as Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens on Sept. 1, 1914, and was immediately shipped in a 300-pound block of ice to the Smithsonian Institution.
The Lost Bird project is hosting a “Fold the Flock” project, featuring a colorful origami pigeon that is being folded nationwide by various groups, schools, museums, and individuals. This is a symbolic recreation of the historic flocks, and the project will continue through the end of this year. More than 100,000 have been folded to date.
A screening of the critically acclaimed documentary film The Lost Bird Project will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 20, at the National Museum of Natural History.
Additional Lost Bird installations
Lost Bird project memorial sculptures by Todd McGrain also have been installed in the vicinity of each bird’s last confirmed sighting. Lost Bird sculptures will be exhibited through spring 2015 at the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, D.C.; the John James Audubon Center in Audubon, Pennsylvania.; the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago; the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California; and the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Learn more about The Lost Bird Project at the following links:
About the Author
Out There With the Birds is the official blog of Bird Watcher's Digest, featuring engaging content, commentary, and creativity from some exciting new voices. New posts appear several times a week, so please check back often!