Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius)

passenger pigeons
(Artwork - 100)
Passenger Pigeon
(Ectopistes migratorius)

This painting shows a group of Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius) and is the third and final (for now at least) painting I did of that species in 2015, as well as my last painting for that year and, I think, probably my best of the year.

The story of the Passenger Pigeon is well known. It is believed that at one time they numbered about three billion, the entire population confined mostly to eastern North America. They occurred, and bred, in vast numbers. Flocks numbering in the millions were recorded up until about the first decades of the 19th century. They were slaughtered in vast numbers, and that, plus destruction of vast, contiguous oak/beech/maple forests that they preferred led to their decline, and eventual extinction. The last one known to have lived died, in a zoo, in 1914.

Where I live, just north of the north shore of Lake Ontario, is in the heart of what was once their natural range, and as is to be expected of so abundant a species, stray individuals occurred elsewhere in North America. They were killed in huge numbers and shipped to various markets, or used for hog food and fertilizer.

The largest collection of preserved specimens in the world is at Torontoís Royal Ontario Museum, which institution has been hugely helpful to me in my artwork and passion for natural history work and conservation, my entire life! I also have looked at specimens elsewhere, including, most recently, the Smithsonian. There are good black and white photographs of them to be used for reference, as well as paintings by artists who saw them, including John James Audubon, whose descriptions of the massive numbers he saw are an important part of the historic record.

They flew very swiftly (an estimated 100 kph, or just over 60 mph) and were, as their name implies, quite migratory.

I did the birds in the foreground slightly larger than life size, those in the back slightly smaller, to suggest a bit of depth to the painting. The painting is in acrylics, on compressed hardboard. The females were more drably coloured than the males, and yet very beautiful in their own right.

There are records of them bunching together at such density that they were on each othersí backs and their combined weight brought down branches, but I decided to portray a less chaotic scene, while still trying to convey a sense of abundance. Unlike other paintings Iíve seen done of them, I did not try to pose them artfully, but rather to go for a sense of natural diversity, with birds looking away, preening, stretching, overlapping each other, and partly out of the frame of the painting. No living person has ever seen living Passenger Pigeons, of course, but I rather think that at times they may well have looked something like this.

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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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