The Lost Bird Project

Through March 15, 2015

Lost Bird Project sculpture

Smithsonian Gardens and Smithsonian Institution Libraries are pleased to present The Lost Bird Project, an outdoor exhibit by artist Todd McGrain, through March 15, 2015. Five large-scale bronze sculptures of extinct North American birds are now on display in the gardens. Four sculptures are located in the Enid A. Haupt Garden parterre. The Passenger Pigeon statue has landed in the Urban Bird Habitat Garden at the National Museum of Natural History as a companion piece to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ exhibit Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America opening from June 24, 2014 - October 2015. Cellphone tours are available in the gardens.

The Lost Bird Project recognizes the tragedy of modern extinction by immortalizing North American birds that have been driven to extinction. To date, bronze memorials have been dedicated to the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Labrador Duck, Great Auk, and Heath Hen. These sculptures compel us to recognize the finality of our loss. They ask us not to forget, and they remind us of our duty to prevent further extinction. Extinction of animals, plants, and other organisms caused by human actions can often be credited to habitat destruction resulting from deforestation and pollution. In addition, excessive hunting and fishing, the introduction of non-native species, and the transmission of diseases are also contributing factors.

Read more about The Lost Bird Project on

Spotlight On

The Passenger Pigeon

Parterre, Haupt Gardens

In 1866, observers witnessed a massive cloud of birds traveling into southern Ontario. It was a mile wide and 300 miles long and took 14 hours to pass a single point.

Passenger Pigeon flocks were huge. They nested by the thousands in the vast unbroken stands of North American woodland, feeding on acorns and nuts. But as settlers moved across the continent and cleared the forests, they over-hunted the pigeons (as a food source and for sport) and removed large portions of the bird’s habitat and food supplies.

Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius), once so astonishingly abundant that no natural predator could make a dent in their numbers, were surprisingly vulnerable to human intrusion. In 1914, the last Passenger Pigeon died in captivity. The story of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction reminds us that sometimes the world of nature is more fragile than we think.

Image: Passenger Pigeon by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, from W.B. Mershon, The Passenger Pigeon, 1907