Special programs to focus on extinct birds

News from the region
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – "Extinct" is a word often associated dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and other creatures that disappeared long ago. However, birds such as the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet have more recent, better-documented – and, thus, much sadder – exits from existence.

People can learn about these extinct birds and other extinct and endangered North American birds at two free upcoming programs at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Springfield Conservation Nature Center.

At "Lost Birds – Activity and Outdoor Movie Night" from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, families can participate in activities and see exhibits themed around North American birds that are extinct and others that are threatened. At 8 p.m., the movie "The Lost Bird Project" will be shown outdoors. This hour-long documentary chronicles sculptor Todd McGrain's efforts to place bronze statues at the sites where five North American bird species went extinct in the last 100 years.

Individuals should bring their own chairs and non-alcoholic beverages for a night of outdoor movie fun.

From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 13, the Nature Center will feature "Lost Birds – Remembering Missouri's Extinct Birds." This event will feature many of the same activities of the previous day, except that "The Lost Bird Project" will be shown in the Nature Center's auditorium at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Two extinct birds that will be highlighted in these programs – the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet – were found in Missouri and parts of the central and eastern U.S. when the first settlers arrived. Passenger pigeons were known for their massive flocks – biologists estimate the continent's population may have been somewhere around five billion at its peak. However, unregulated hunting and habitat destruction caused this bird to disappear. The world's last passenger pigeon, named "Martha" by her caretakers, died on Sept. 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. It was one of the first instances where a species' exact moment of extinction was documented.

The Carolina parakeet, a bird seen in Missouri by Lewis and Clark, was the only parrot native to the U.S. This bird was often shot because it was considered to be an agricultural pest and its brightly colored feathers were coveted for decorative purposes. The world's last Carolina parakeet, named "Incas," died in 1918 at the Cincinnati Zoo.

To register for these programs or to learn about other events at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, call 417-888-4237 or visit mdc.mo.gov.