We’ve got a fun, educational project for kids of all ages here in Q?rius: Folding origami Passenger Pigeons to help remember this extinct bird.
People thought it would never happen, but 100 years ago the Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in America, went extinct. Now you can commemorate this famous fowl by folding an origami pattern and displaying it in your home or office.
Come to Q?rius on the ground floor of the Museum on weekends and fold your own for free. The Q?Crew teen volunteers will show you how. I found it easier to follow along with them than to figure out the directions on my own.
If you’re not in D.C. or can’t get here, download Passenger Pigeon origami from the Fold the Flock website and create one at home. After you’ve folded your pigeon, add it to the virtual flock. As of this writing, the website had tallied more than 199,000 origami Passenger Pigeons!
Billions of Passenger Pigeons lived in the United States in the early 1800s, but by the end of the century few remained. Overhunting, habitat loss, and possibly disease killed them off. The last one, “Martha,” died at the Cincinnati Zoo, Sept. 1, 1914, after which she was immediately put on ice and shipped to the Smithsonian Institution.
Martha is normally not on exhibit, but through October 2015 you can see her and other extinct birds of North America in the “Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America” exhibit on the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History.
“The Lost Bird Project,” an art exhibit presented by Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens, also showcases extinct birds. In the Urban Habitat Garden on the Museum grounds, you can see a large bronze Passenger Pigeon sculpture by artist Todd McGrain.
You can also watch and submit questions to Smithsonian ornithologist Helen James, who will address the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and other North American birds as the featured guest of a “Smithsonian Science How” webcast on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014.
Did you enjoy making the origami? Tell us why in the comments below!