For more than a decade, sculptor Todd McGrain has immortalized five extinct birds in stylized bronze sculpture in a series called The Lost Project. Each sculpture stands over six feet tall and weighs up to 700 pounds with surfaces as smooth as polished stone. After each project is completed, McGrain travels across the country to bring his sculptured birds back home, and places them in their former natural habitat. Since 2000, McGrain has met with local communities to place permanent memorials where each bird inhabited or was last seen.
As JCSM begins to raise funds to keep The Lost Bird Project as a part of a permanent sculpture program, learn more about the inspiration for the artist’s interpretation of creatures lost to the ages.
From the coast of Newfoundland, the Great Auk thrived on desolate Funk Island with their lifelong mates. Only standing 30 inches off of the ground, the Great Auk’s delicate wings were entirely disproportional to their massive beaks. Their webbed feet made them exceptional swimmers, but while on land they were often at risk.
For thousands of years, the Great Auk was a vulnerable meat source for indigenous North Americans and European explorers. Beginning in the 1500s, their population decreased due to overexploitation by fisherman, and later a demand for their precious feathers. By the 1800s, the last flock lived in solitude on an Iceland island until a devastating volcanic eruption drove the remaining birds to extinction.