Text by Paula Dittrick, Photo on TMNCPC web site cover is from the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council. Photos within blog are by Shannon Westveer and Robbin Mallett, TMNCPC members
A bronze Eskimo Curlew stands 6 feet tall at Galveston Island State Park. The sculpture, permanently installed this spring, is part of The Lost Bird Project by Todd McGrain.
Across North America, six memorial sculptures are each placed near the last sighting of that particular bird. The Texas Ornithological Society’s Texas Bird Records Committee lists the Eskimo Curlew as last being photographed in west Galveston in 1962.
Meanwhile, the final confirmed sighting came in 1963 when someone shot an Eskimo curlew in Barbados. An Audubon web site shows the Eskimo curlew had brown feathers with white speckles and cinnamon underwings. Its long legs were dark green, dark brown, or dark grey-blue.
Other permanent Lost Bird Project sculptures are:
- Great Auk in Newfoundland
- Passenger Pigeon in Ohio
- Labrador Duck in New York
- Carolina Parakeet in Florida
- Heath Hen in Massachusetts
McGrain built the sculptures to link art with natural history, illustrating how humans have hindered biodiversity. The documentary Lost Birds shows McGrain visiting various sites to find good locations and to acquire permission to place each sculpture.
“Forgetting that these birds ever existed is another kind of extinction,” McGrain said. “It takes real work to preserve habitat, raise awareness, and mitigate the factors that adversely affect bird populations.”
The original bronzes of each sculpture are on display in Galveston’s Bryan Museum gardens through March 2021. There is no fee to visit the exhibit, supported by the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, Houston Audubon, and The Bryan Museum.