Every year, millions of migratory birds head south, then north using a 4,000-mile-long superhighway of sorts. It’s called the Pacific Flyway, and it’s the route of choice for more than 350 bird species in search of places to breed, feed and hunker down for winter.

Now, the diversity and necessity of the flyway is the focus of an art and design exhibition at the University of California at Davis.

"Instinct Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway," a free exhibition at the UC Davis Design Museum, celebrates birds on the move. But the multidisciplinary display doesn't look just at flight. It also views the flyway in its many guises — habitat, human home, recreational hotbed and swath of land worth conserving. And it does so with art that, curators hope, might inspire action and increase awareness.

The Great Pacific Flyway isn’t just a vital asset for birds. (Nikki Boudreau) )

Visual artists from UC Davis and Sacramento State University partnered to create the art and brought the community — including students, scientists and organizations devoted to the birds and their habitats — along for the flight.

You’d think that an exhibition devoted to migrating birds would focus solely on the animals, but that’s not the case. Part of the point is to consider how the existence of all those flying birds affects art and creativity along the West Coast. History is covered, too, as are unexpected allies such as the hunting clubs that help fight to preserve bird habitats.

The great migrations that shape the Pacific Flyway are group achievements, and so is one of the exhibition’s standout pieces. It’s a wall covered with blue feather prints, the handiwork of several university students, each one a slight variation on a soaring theme.

See "Instinct Extinct" through Nov. 12. Can't make it in person? Search online for "Instinct Extinct photo gallery" for a glimpse at some of the art.

Erin Blakemore

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