Since 1600 some 80 bird species have become extinct. The speaker will draw on a wide range of sources for his accounts of these birds, their habits and demise, with evidence of preserved specimens brought to life by the eye-witness accounts of early travellers and explorers. Their stories are sometimes tantalisingly slight: isolated sightings of a single bird may be the only evidence that a species ever existed. By contrast, the expeditions of Nineteenth Century naturalists are often well documented and their descriptions accompanied by detailed drawings and paintings. In more recent cases our knowledge about an extinct species can be so extensive that even the precise time and place of death of its last surviving member is recorded.
Virtually all of the species talked about here will be illustrated with colour plates from archival sources, including the work of such acknowledged masters as Audubon, Keulemans and Lear. These artists often had the advantage of working from fresh specimens or even from living birds, and besides its beauty their work is a primary source of scientific knowledge in its own right. Where no appropriate picture exists, new paintings have been produced especially for the talk. The stories of these birds are sometimes fantastic, often touching and humorous, but ultimately sad. Extinct Birds is a fascinating record of those species of birds which have been unable to adapt and survive, and a timely reminder of the human capacity to change the environment for the worse.
Errol Fuller is an acclaimed writer and painter and a world authority on animal extinction and the curiosities of natural history. His many books include the award-winning Extinct Birds as well as Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record (Princeton), Dodo: From Extinction to Icon, The Great Auk, and Drawn from Paradise (with David Attenborough).
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