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Sound

The Vanishing Birds Project

10:56
Maggie Dubris
composed and edited by Maggie Dubris, using recorded vocal and bird calls..

Lyrics

 

The sounds that you hear in this track are the calls of endangered and extinct birds. Most of the calls were donated by the Cornell Bird Lab, without whose help the sound element of this project could not have happened. Below is the text of the soundscape.

 

Sometimes I wonder what became of the birds. 157 species gone extinct in the past 500 years. 1200 more species expected to vanish in the coming century. One third of North American birds presently in decline.

Extinct, endangered, threatened.

What lost lore do their lost songs hold?

Extinct, endangered, threatened.

What ghost eggs do their ghost nests hold?

 

I wish in the rushes

I wish upon on a star

I wish . . .

Extinct, endangered, threatened.

. . . that we will rename the constellations for the birds, after they’re gone. So they’ll always be remembered, wheeling bright across the graveyards of the sky.

 

The Kauai O-O: frozen in the milky whirl of a hurricane  (extinct)

The Kauai O-O was the tiniest of the Hawaiian Honeyeaters, all of whom are threatened as a result of deforestation and habitat destruction. The female of the last known pair was swept away in the hurricane of 1985. Her mate spent several years singing and building nests before he too died.

 

The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker: lost in the thickets of the cypress stars  (critically endangered)

The Ivory Billed Woodpecker, a solitary bird, was long believed to be extinct as a result of hunting and logging. It requires about three square miles of dense cypress forest to sustain a single pair. Only one Ivory Bill has ever been sighted. It is unknown if there are more.

 

The California Condor: twinkling silent beyond the rings of Saturn  (critically endangered)

The California Condor has soared through the skies above North America for over ten thousand years. The major threats to the Condors have been hunting, lead poisoning from eating fragmented bullets in carrion, electrical wires, DDT, and habitat destruction. There are 270 Condors left.

 

The Florida Scrub-Jay: in a starry nest of twigs and palmetto fibers  (threatened)

The Florida Scrub Jay, Florida’s only endemic bird, buries acorns in the fall and thus is a primary disperser of oaks. It is threatened by habitat destruction due to increasing human population. 8000 Florida Scrub-Jays are alive today.

 

The Ashy Storm Petrel: perched forever on the shores of Neptune  (threatened)

The Ashy Storm Petrel, a shy seabird, has been known to live as long as 31 years. Threats to this bird include predation by non-native species, light pollution, and pollution of the oceans. Between five and ten thousand remain.

 

Kittlitz’s Murrelet: caught in mid-dive, the cold glacial sky all around  (status unknown, probably critically endangered)

Kittlitz’s Murrelet is a rare and mysterious bird who makes its home on the face of the tidewater glaciers. The population has declined by 80% in the last few decades, probably because of habitat degradation due to global warming. There are probably about 13,000 left alive as of this year.

 

The Whooping Crane: head thrown back, beak raised to the hot blue shimmer of the Pleiades  (critically endangered)

Whooping Cranes are monogamous and usually mate for life. They have lived on earth for several million years. The most pressing threat right now is potential contamination of their wintering grounds due to petrochemical spills. The total population as of 2006 was 475 individuals, both captive and wild.

 

The Golden-Cheeked Warbler: stars of white across her wings  (endangered)

The Golden-Cheeked Warbler, a small songbird whose range is confined entirely to Texas, weaves her nest of juniper bark and insect silk. The population continues to decline due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. 9,600 of these birds survive.

 

The Kirtland’s Warbler: faint and half-forgotten, nestled in the jack pines of a dwarf galaxy  (threatened)

Fire suppression has resulted in the loss of this bird’s only habitat, the young jack pine forest in the pine barrens of Michigan. There are 2,800 Kirtland’s warbler’s in existence today.

 

The Piping Plover: preening in the star-flats of the Milky Way  (endangered)

The Piping Plover, a shy seabird, nests in a scrape lined with pebbles and shells. The main threat to this bird is alteration of its breeding site and nest destruction due to coastal development and human recreation. There are 6,100 Piping Plovers left alive.

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