The Kid Should See This

Illustrating the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Wall of Birds

In 2014, artist Jane Kim was commissioned to paint a mural of 270 representative bird species — including some extinct species, a few dinosaurs, and a black caiman — on 3,000 square feet (280 square meters) of wall space at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Visitor Center… that’s 243 bird families and 375 million years.

This video introduces the work that went into the mural, titled From So Simple a Beginning: Celebrating the Evolution and Diversity of Birds.

A selection of mural facts from this up close interactive version:

  • The Wall of Birds represents the 243 currently recognized bird families. The total number of families fluctuates as new genetic evidence comes to light.
  • There are 21 extinct species depicted in grayscale along the staircase, covering a span of about 350 million years. Five additional species are shown on the world map where they lived before humans drove them to extinction.
  • The black caiman is on the wall at the foot of the stairs to remind us that crocodilians are the closest living relatives to birds.
  • The birds on the wall are life-sized. The interactive was designed so that when viewing the mural at maximum zoom, the birds on the screen will also be life-sized. This works best for screens which display images at a resolution of 72 px/in (28 px/cm).
  • The photo of the mural is a composite of more than 750 individual high-definition photographs stitched together into a 2.34 gigapixel image (71,000 by 33,000 pixels). The image was divided up into almost 50,000 tiles for display on the web at multiple zoom levels.

Watch more videos from the Cornell Lab, more murals, and this: How do we know what color dinosaurs were?

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