Lost birds exhibit reveals plight of Florida grasshopper sparrow

Florida grasshopper sparrow

A new art exhibit is calling attention to the plight of some of the most vulnerable birds including the critically endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.

FIU’s Tropical Conservation Institute (TCI) has brought The Lost Bird Project to The Kampong, a botanical garden in Coconut Grove, Fla. The exhibit features 6-foot bronze sculptures of the extinct Carolina parakeet, Labrador duck, great auk, heath hen and passenger pigeon. The sculptures, created by Todd McGrain, will be on display until July 2018.

“This artwork brings awareness to endangered birds by memorializing those that were already driven to extinction,” said Paul Reillo, director of TCI, a partnership between FIU and the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation. “We have the next bird extinction unfolding at our doorstep so the synergy was obvious.”

The Florida grasshopper sparrow is the world’s most endangered bird with an estimated 10 to 15 breeding pairs left in the wild, Reillo said. TCI is leading captive breeding programs to keep the tiny and elusive songbird from being wiped off the planet. In addition to the traveling exhibit a sculpture of each bird is permanently installed where it was last seen in the wild. The Carolina parakeet was last seen at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in 1910 — also one of the last strongholds of the Florida grasshopper sparrow.

“The lost birds exhibit fits well because of our concern with the conservation of all life forms,” said Michael Rosenberg, chairman of the board of governors of The Kampong. “We’re losing entire species of plants and animals throughout the world. The public needs to know about the risk of extinction, and they need to raise concerns among leaders who can effect change.”

Florida grasshopper sparrow
Florida grasshopper sparrow

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