The Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, the Carolina Parakeet...
April 13, 2013 9:49 PM   Subscribe

The Lost Bird Project documents the stories of five North American birds driven to extinction in modern times and sculptor Todd McGrain's road-trip to memorialize them. (via)
posted by spamandkimchi (5 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

This looks awesome and now I can't wait to see it. Thanks!
posted by primalux at 10:46 PM on April 13, 2013

If they were edible, they would still exist. Isn't that ironic?
posted by Renoroc at 12:16 PM on April 14, 2013

I was heartbroken when I went to the opening weekend of the Cheonggyecheon Stream restoration in Seoul, Korea (the problems of a channelized water fountain masquerading as a stream ecosystem is another story) and a bunch of little kids LOST THEIR SHIT because they saw ducks paddling around. "A DUCK! See! See! A DUCK! Look there are ducks!"

What on earth. Ducks and their dastardly neighbors Canadian Geese are an enduring part of my childhood. You can't appreciate your own mortality until a bunch of Canadian Geese chase you down, honking mercilessly.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:51 PM on April 14, 2013

The story of the last of the Great Auks always makes me sad

"With its increasing rarity, specimens of the Great Auk and its eggs became collectible and highly prized by rich Europeans, and the loss of a large number of its eggs to collection contributed to the demise of the species.

"Eggers, individuals who visited the nesting sites of the Great Auk to collect their eggs, quickly realized that the birds did not all lay their eggs on the same day, so they could make return visits to the same breeding colony. Eggers only collected eggs without embryos growing inside of them and typically discarded the eggs with embryos.

It was on the islet of Stac an Armin, St Kilda, Scotland, in July 1840, that the last Great Auk seen in the British Isles was caught and killed. Three men from St Kilda caught a single "garefowl", noticing its little wings and the large white spot on its head. They tied it up and kept it alive for three days, until a large storm arose. Believing that the auk was a witch and the cause of the storm, they then killed it by beating it with a stick. It is the only British bird made extinct in historic times.

The last colony of Great Auks lived on Geirfuglasker (the "Great Auk Rock") off Iceland. This islet was a volcanic rock surrounded by cliffs which made it inaccessible to humans, but in 1830 the islet submerged after a volcanic eruption, and the birds moved to the nearby island of Eldey, which was accessible from a single side. When the colony was initially discovered in 1835, nearly fifty birds were present.

Museums, desiring the skins of the auk for preservation and display, quickly began collecting birds from the colony. The last pair, found incubating an egg, was killed there on 3 July 1844, on request from a merchant who wanted specimens, with Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the adults and Ketill Ketilsson smashing the egg with his boot.

Great Auk specialist John Wolley interviewed the two men who killed the last birds, and Ísleifsson described the act as follows:

The rocks were covered with blackbirds [referring to Guillemots] and there were the Geirfugles ... They walked slowly. Jón Brandsson crept up with his arms open. The bird that Jón got went into a corner but [mine] was going to the edge of the cliff. [I] caught it close to the edge – a precipice many fathoms deep. The black birds were flying off. I took him by the neck and he flapped his wings. He made no cry. I strangled him.
posted by chris88 at 6:09 PM on April 14, 2013

God, that's sad.
posted by chance at 7:12 PM on April 14, 2013

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