50 Forgotten Bird Songs Play in a Sydney Alley

The Forgotten Songs installation above Angel Place commemorates the songs of fifty birds that once populated central Sydney before they were pushed out by European settlement.

Today, most of the birds have been pushed out to the city’s margins and beyond where they find refuge in native vegetation away from development.

The installation by artist Michael Hill was originally part of the 2009 temporary laneway art project, By George! Hidden Networks. The goal of the project was to draw attention and foot traffic to Sydney’s underutilized network of laneways.

Forgotten Songs’ canopy of bird cages proved to be so popular with residents and tourists that it was turned into a permanent art installation in 2011.

120 permanent birdcages now sway above the street as an eerie reminder of our inability to cohabitate with nature. By day, you can hear the songs of diurnal birds like the Eastern Whipbird, Rockwarbler, Regent Honeyeater, Grey Shrike-thrush, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Spotted Pardalote, Brown Gerygone, Jacky Winter, and Scarlet Robin---among others.

At night, the calls of nocturnal birds like the Australian Owlet-nightjar, Powerful Owl, Southern Boobook, Barn Owl, Tawny Frogmouth and White-throated Nightjar echo off the walls and pavement of Angel Place.

Watch Forgotten Songs

Forgotten Songs, Angel Place, Sydney from Lightwell on Vimeo.

The impact of a thought-provoking piece of art like this is hard to grasp just through pictures. But this video gives those of us who can't visit the installation in person a good idea of what it's like to be there.

Instagraming the location of habitat destruction, and listening to recorded bird songs is the way we interact with nature now. Can we do better?

50 Forgotten Bird Songs Play in a Sydney Alley
An art installation in Australia reminds us of the destructive force of urbanization.

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