National Aviary displays life-size carvings of Passenger Pigeon and two other extinct birds, hosts reception with the artist


November 3, 2014 (Pittsburgh, PA) – Now through December, area institutions mark the extinction of a once abundant bird in Pennsylvania with Project Passenger Pigeon Pittsburgh. Once numbering in the billions, this species was driven to extinction in just 40 years’ time. In commemoration, life-size carvings of eight extinct bird species, designed by artist Tom Duran, have been installed at five area venues—The National Aviary, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, Winnie Palmer Nature Center at St. Vincent College, and Powdermill Nature Reserve—where they will remain on exhibit through December. Coupled with public programs, the exhibit is part of an ongoing national effort to mark the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and to raise awareness of the importance of preserving biodiversity. People can download a passport and have it stamped when they visit each site where these eight impressive works of art are on exhibit.

The National Aviary welcomes visitors to a special reception with the artist Tom Duran on Sunday, November 9, 2014, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Three of his carvings—Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, and Labrador Duck—are on exhibit at the National Aviary until the end of the year. Duran will bring sketches created during the design phase of his work and share the story behind his creative inspiration.

Tom Duran shares about his unique sculptures: “The collection of carvings representing the extinct birds of North America developed from my youthful interest in Natural History and American History.  At an early age, I recognized that both were closely related and defined each other.  As a lad of just ten or eleven, it somehow came to be that I was at Frick Park in the company of the Park Naturalist who had in his possession the sorry remains of a Passenger Pigeon.  I was impressed in a sad yet exciting sort of way.  This was even before I knew anything about taxidermy or woodcarving. As a taxidermist and artist at Carnegie Museum, I rapidly gained a working knowledge of extinct birds.  With art and taxidermy as a foundation, it was a short step to the vision of a collection of extinct bird carvings.”

“The National Aviary works every day to help conserve endangered species through our participation in captive breeding programs, conservation field research and scientific study, environmental education, and by developing effective new medical procedures in our avian hospital, says National Aviary Director, Cheryl Tracy. These exquisite carvings are a compelling reminder of what can far too easily be lost if, as a society, we are not vigilant and diligent in promoting public education, scientific research, and conservation.”

“The sculptures show us some of the beauty of what we can be lost when we view nature as an inexhaustible resource,” says National Aviary ornithologist Robert Mulvihill. “When species are lost as a direct or indirect result of human actions, it is analogous to when early coal miners ceased to hear their canary’s call: something about the environment changed in a way that may well be significant for our own survival.”

Project Passenger Pigeon was inspired by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across The Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction,” with the goal of engaging as many people as possible with the extinction story of the Passenger Pigeon and inspiring future generations to protect the natural world. A full calendar of educational lectures, performances, and exhibitions is being offered at the National Aviary, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Duquesne University. 


About the National Aviary

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit