Todd McGrain’s LOST BIRD PROJECT sculptures at Norman Bird Sanctuary

Norman Bird Sanctuary Lost Birds - Heath Hen Collage

Here’s a collage my phone put together for me. I love this. I think the heath hen was my favorite due to its tragic final cry before extinction.

There is something about the overwhelming sadness of extinction that has always sucked me in.

So imagine how excited I was when, recently, I went to bird watch at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, Rhode Island and discovered something called The Lost Bird Project.

In 2012, artist Todd McGrain created bronze sculptures of five extinct Northern American species of birds and then made an attempt to install each memorial where the last of its real-world counterpart was seen.

Norman Bird Sanctuary Lost Bird Great Auk - B&W

A black and white shot of the great auk sculpture.

Over the past seven years, the five—the passenger pigeon, heath hen, great auk, Labrador duck, and Carolina parakeet—have been exhibited at several locations, including the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY; the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, CA; the Wildlife Museum in Jackson Hole, WY; and the Kampong National Tropical Botanical Garden in Coconut Grove, FL. It has also been exhibited at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and many other museums and nature centers.

There is a little bit more information about each bird in the photo captions (except for the Labrador duck, which was in a garden I didn’t get to, but for the record—it went extinct in the late 1800s).

This installation will be at the sanctuary until sometime in 2020—the sanctuary’s site notes that it will be there “two years” and the announcement of its opening was in September, 2018. So if you really want to see these and you live within a decent drive time from Middletown RI, I’d go as soon as you can. If you’ve never been to that area of the state, it’s near Newport, so there is plenty to do to make a full vacation out of it and put this on your itinerary. If you’re a birder or birdwatcher, then this is a place that should be on your bucket list.

Norman Bird Sanctuary Welcome Center Sign

The Welcome Center at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, RI. You can get maps and information on everything at the center, including the Lost Bird Project.

And if you’d like to know what my bird count was for the afternoon (not really high, I wasn’t there to build a list for the day) here it is:

June 1, 2019

Norman Bird Sanctuary – 3rd Beach Road, Middletown, RI

63 degrees; overcast, then hazy/sunny

1:50 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.


Blue Jay – 1

Northern Cardinal – 1 (M)

Northern Mockingbird – 1

Song Sparrow – 1

Great Egret – 1

Mourning Dove – 1

Gray Catbird – 1

Red-winged Blackbird – 2

Tree Swallow – 4

House Sparrow – 1 (M)

Norman Bird Sanctuary -- Great Egret

I saw a great egret at one of the NBS’ ponds. This is a crappy picture, but at least I have a record of it. It was awesome when he flew–when you’re that close, it’s hard to believe how large the wing span is. Majestic is honestly the only word.


Norman Bird Sanctuary

Map of The Lost Bird Project at the Norman Bird Sanctuary

Map of Norman Bird Sanctuary showing locations of lost bird sculptures

This map of the Norman Bird Sanctuary shows the sculpture’s locations.

The Lost Bird Project


Newport This Week:


The Lost Bird Project Documentary

(As of this posting, if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch this for free.)


The Lost Bird Project Coffee Table Book, by Todd McGrain


Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds, by Christopher Cokinos

This beautifully written, poignant book inspired McGrain’s project. Well worth the read, but warning, it’s sad.

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on June 30, 2019, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I didn’t know what a heath hen was. I had to look it up. It was a beautiful bird. Yes, egrets are cool!

    • I don’t think I’d actually heard of it until this project, and that’s why THE LOST BIRD PROJECT is so important. It raises awareness. I mean, most of us have heard of the Dodo, but imagine a few generations down the line? If we don’t keep the stories alive, they will be lost to history forever.

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