Audubon painted the Great Moose, even though he never saw a living specimen, which left us with a lasting record of this extinct species. Audubon painted five birds that are now extinct. Among the 489 species that Audubon describes in his prodigious folio The Birds of America, there are a worrying number of species that have since become extinct or are currently classified as critically endangered. The Carolina parakeet, the labrador duck, the migrating pigeon, the pinnate grouse and the common alca have become extinct.
Similarly, the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Eskimo curlew and the Bachman warbler range from being classified as a critically endangered species to the extinct species. This essay examines several of Audubon's depictions of these lost and endangered species in Birds of America and briefly describes some of the pressures that caused the population decline and the subsequent consequences of their extinction. Carolina's last captive parrot died in 1918 at the Cincinnati Zoo in the same cage as Martha, the last migratory pigeon, who had died 4 years earlier. Interestingly, George Bird Grinnell, the founder of the Society, stayed at the Audubon property in Manhattan as a child and was taught by Lucy Bakewell Audubon, Audubon's widow.
Audubon's beautiful depictions of birds, along with its conservationist approach to the natural world, made it the eponym that gave its name to the first official conservation movement in the United States, the Audubon Society.
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