The Lost Bird Project

Todd McGrain

The Lost Bird Project is part natural history, part artist’s diary, documenting the extraordinary effort to place a series of public memorials to birds driven to extinction in modern times. As a chronicle of humankind’s impact on our changing world and a moving record of dwindling biodiversity, The Lost Bird Project is an ode to vanished times and vanished species. The Great Auk, Labrador Duck, Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, and Heath Hen once populated North America from the shores of Labrador and New York to the midwestern plains. Across the continent the skies were once nearly black with Passenger Pigeons whose disappearance, like the buffalo’s, was thought to be inconceivable. As works of site-specific environmental art, the sculptures featured in The Lost Bird Project were placed in the location where the bird was last seen in the wild and are now permanent public sculpture installations at a wide range of sites, from Newfoundland to Florida, Ohio to Martha’s Vineyard. Ten years in the making, The Lost Bird Project has been the subject of a feature-length documentary film that premiered in New York City in December 2011. This book launches in concert with the Fold a Flock origami bird initiative in schools and Audubon centers across the country (

Cloth: $19.95
ISBN-13: 9781611685664
Pages: 100 | Size: 9 in. x 12 in.
Date Published: September 2, 2014


  • The Lost Bird Project is a moving tribute to species that have been lost through human action or indifference. With more and more birds going the way of the Great Auk, it should serve not just as a memorial, but as a goad to action.

    Elizabeth Kolbert
    author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
  • The Lost Bird Project is a wonderfully original, moving, and educational work of tribute to extinct species of birds that once populated the American wilderness. Its sculptures, and their placements, are unique. What a grand idea!

    Richard Rhodes
    author of John James Audubon: The Making of an American
  • Fifteen years ago, sculptor Todd McGrain began to build bronze memorials for five extinct species of birds-the great auk, Carolina parakeet, heath hen, passenger pigeon, and Labrador duck-and install them near the place where each species’ last member vanished from the earth. The publication of THE LOST BIRD PROJECT, a book that contains photographs from the memorial-making process along with mini-biographies of its winged subjects, marks the successful end of this remarkable and moving undertaking. Despite the fact that no one today has seen them alive, it’s possible, as McGrain has proven, to preserve the sculptural memory of these birds-the loss of which might be extinction’s greatest tragedy.

  • The heath hen and four other extinct North American birds - the great auk, Labrador duck, passenger pigeon, and Carolina parakeet - are memorialized in The Lost Bird Project by Todd McGrain and in a documentary with the same title. Over the past decade, McGrain, who is artist in residence at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, created bronze sculptures of the five birds. Each statue is installed at a site where the bird was last seen in the wild; the memorial to the heath hen is in Manuel F. Corellus State Forest on the Vineyard.

    Boston Globe
  • To honor these birds, and our loss of them, as this book will do, is a natural, necessary, and self-respecting part of our human journey.

    Joanna Macy
    author of World as Lover, World as Self

About the Author

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