Early this year, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology unveiled an homage to avian evolution like no other: a hand-painted mural in their visitor's center depicting 270 species on a 35- by 78-foot map of the world. The paintings are the work of Jane Kim, a science illustrator who burst out of the gates of her science illustration internship at Cornell to lasso this dream project with her #sciart triple threat: big ideas,  technical skill, and enviable work ethic. Since its unveiling, countless visitors to the Cornell Lab's Visitor Center have been able to borrow a pair of binoculars and go on safari from a vantage point on the second level of the building.
 

Detail of mural by Jane Kim, Ink Dwell
Detail of the avian evolution mural at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. From left to right: Montezuma Oropendola, Wren thrush, Three-wattled bellbird, Dusky-faced tanager. ©Jane Kim, Ink Dwell studio; used with permission

Now, after months of work, the wall has been meticulously digitized and is accessible for a much wider audience online. The digital Wall of Birds allows you to zoom in on any of the 270 species depicted and tap into the wealth of knowledge offered by the Lab's extensive online Bird Academy database. Learn about geographical distribution, conservation status, bird taxonomy and even listen to recordings of bird calls. With no immediate plans to visit Ithaca, NY, I'm having a blast exploring the mural from afar. A few choice details about the digital version:

Over 700 images were stitched together to capture the wall in all its glory:

Screen Shot of Wall of Birds Interactive
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's digital Wall of Birds online interactive. In life, this mural measures 35 ft tall by 78 ft. wide.

Click anywhere on the wall and you'll find detailed information about the species depicted. The site is designed so that the maximum zoom depicts the paintings true to size:

Wall of Birds detail

Off the map and set apart by their lack of color, are a handful of extinct species chosen to mark key moments in avian evolution. This "parade of ghosts," as Jane Kim calls it, is a clever reminder that humans were not the inevitable result of evolution. Rather, every species alive today is its own success story. High-five, ostrich. Nice work making it this far.

Digital Wall of Birds: Tiktaalik detail
In our anthopocentric view of things, we tend to forget that Tiktaalik has as much of a role in our evolutionary history as it does in an ostrich's.

Read more about the mural itself in the piece I wrote in January, shortly after its unveiling:
516 Bird Feet in 3000 square feet

Explore more:
Wall of Birds interactive
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Academy
Ink Dwell studio