"Once There Were Billions" at Museum of Natural History Wednesday, June 25

Birds are our unlikely evolutionary connection to the dinosaurs that once ruled our earthly roost. While the great extinctions relegated the lizard kings to bones and oil, they live on in our collective imaginations. But modern avians have closer relatives that don’t get nearly as much attention: other birds who died off in the past few centuries. The Natural History Museum launches a new exhibit, “Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America” on June 24 to introduce visitors to a plethora of winged things that used to fly our skies and waddle our shores. The most famous of these vanished creatures is the passenger pigeon, whose final emissary, Martha, died a century ago. Some of Martha’s bones will be on display, as well as specimens and illustrations of other passenger pigeons, heath hens, and Carolina parakeets. For those disappointed in North America’s bird game (if the red-breasted robin is the best we’ve got, then we pale in comparison to our southern neighbors), the exhibit is a great chance to see the diverse creatures that used to live here in abundance—and figure out what happened to them. The exhibition is on view 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 633-1000. mnh.si.edu.

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