Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Bird Extinctions – Time Travel through Lava Tubes


  • Title: Bird Extinctions – Time Travel through Lava Tubes
  • Air Date: December 11, 2014
  • Series: Smithsonian Science How webcasts, which are designed to connect natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

This video features Dr. Helen James, an ornithologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Have you ever considered how a species as abundant as the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) could have gone extinct? Analyze their disappearance and consider what factors make birds vulnerable to extinction. Follow Helen into Hawaiian lava tubes to look for prehistoric evidence of bird life on the islands. See which bird species survived and which did not after humans arrived on the scene. Use modern tools and technologies to interpret bird extinctions.

Teaching Resources

Bird Extinctions in Recent Geologic Time

National Middle School Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Life Science

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • MS-LS2-2: Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Earth Science

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Life Science