How do you capture and pay homage to the evolutionary history of birds? How do you blend the traditions of scientific illustration and large-scale mural painting? The Wall of Birds at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology is a stunning blend of both practices that beautifully answers that question. Painted by scientific illustrator and artist Jane Kim, the mural’s full title, inspired by a quote from Charles Darwin, is “From So Simple a Beginning: Celebrating the Evolution and Diversity of Birds”. Spanning 3,000 square feet, the mural is a testament to the mesmerizing diversity of birds stretching from the past to the present. In all, Kim painted 243 accurate to-scale illustrations of birds spanning 375 million years of history.
The earliest ancestors are painted as beautifully rendered black and white illustrations. Contemporary species are rendered in full color and detail, accurate in scale and placed on a backdrop of their geographical location. Extinct but contemporary species are also painted as black and whites. You can see from the video how much this work was a labor of love and a testament to the work of the artist and scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The Wall of Birds is something that would best be viewed in person, but the University has created an online interactive map. The map allows you to zoom into the painting of any bird and read about its history, learn about its habitat, and hear its calls.