Rare Photographs of 12 Extinct Birds

Image: Henry Charles Clarke Wright

Laughing Owl, photographed sometime between 1889 and 1910

We often think of extinct animals as little more than forlorn, shabby-looking specimens that have been stuffed and preserved for display in museums; animals trapped in glass boxes as if for eternity rather than frolicking free in the wild. Yet, a few photographs were taken of the 12 extinct (or probably extinct) bird species described here before the last of their kin disappeared, meaning these snapshots have become rare treasures. Let’s remember that on this rather sad trip into the past.

Image: J. G. Hubbard

A group of Passenger Pigeons in the aviary of C.O. Whitman, a professor of zoology at the University of Chicago

Many factors can contribute to the extinction of an entire species. These can be genetic – for instance, the ‘pollution’ of purebred species; biological, owing to causes such as predation and disease; or the result of outside forces, like climate change. Sadly, humans have played a major part in the extinction of many different species. The greed of over-hunting and carelessness of habitat destruction have both been blameworthy in such cases. But, sometimes it comes down to simple ignorance of the important role that a species fulfills. Or to the introduction of invasive species. Let’s hope the examples of these already extinct birds educate us on how not to treat other existing species.

We’ve looked at rare photographs of extinct animals like the Thylacine previously on Environmental Graffiti. Now it’s time to peruse some equally scarce snapshots of extinct bird species – all wiped out so recently that their images are preserved on film.