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The Extinct Birds Project started in 2015 after the author saw a drawer full of extinct birds in the collections of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. On the clean white paper were the bodies of seven extinct birds and around a dozen other threatened species. A tremendous veil of sadness laced every one of the specimens and countless questions immediately ran through the author's mind: How did the institution get these extinct birds? Why did they go extinct? Should they have been collected if they were in danger or going extinct? Where were these birds collected? Have the bodies been gutted and filled with cotton? How is that done? Who collected these and how was this done? What were the collectors’ lives like?
This book, with its accompanying exhibition and website extinctbirdsproject.com, tries to answer these questions and several others about seventeen extinct birds species. The publication examines at least one individual specimen and the ornithologist who collected it from each of these species. The essays and illustrations present complicated global environmental and societal issues in an accessible and intriguing manner.
The book was printed in the USA on post-consumer recycled paper and complies with Lacey Act requirements and is chain-of-custody tri-certified from sustainable forests. It is presented in a rather unusual landscape format measuring 368 × 165 mm (W × H).
"[...] These skins, stuffed with cotton in drawers, are our sole remaining link to something lost. Rey lingers over them, obsesses over them. But still, we are left with an incomplete picture. The fading feathers can never connect us to the real thing. But through art and words, Rey conjures what we have lost – and why conserving the birds that remain is such a vital task in the 21st century."
– Matthew L. Miller, Cool Green Science