The Heath Hen was once plentiful along the eastern coast. By 1870, due to over-hunting and habitat loss, the last few hundred Heath Hens in the world were limited to Martha’s Vineyard. Although efforts to save the species were unsuccessful, they paved the way for modern-day conservation. Manuel F. Corellus State Forest is the lasting legacy of the once plentiful Heath Hen.
By 1908, only 70 Heath Hens remained. In an effort to protect the species, a Heath Hen Reserve, now Manuel F. Corellus State Forest, was established on Martha’s Vineyard. Initially it seemed the Reserve would be a success, as the Heath Hen population increased to about 2,000. However, the birds were met with several setbacks, including forest fire, severe winters, increased predation, and disease. By 1927, there were only twelve Heath Hens left in the world. In just one year, the last twelve Heath Hens became one - a sole male. Islanders named him ‘Booming Ben.’
Inspired for his “Lost Bird Project”, Todd McGrain chose the Heath Hen to be one of five extinct bird species to be sculpted. His breathless sculpture of the Heath Hen commemorates the last time the bird was seen.
On June 2, 2011, The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation dedicated the Heath Hen Sculpture at Manuel Correllus State Forest. The Heath Hen statue can be found by taking a five to ten-minute walk into the forest from Gate 18 or Gate 19 on the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road. Visitors will learn more about ‘Booming Ben’ and the important conservation message contained in the story of the Heath Hen.
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