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Trinidad honors canaries for doing deadly job

TRINIDAD, Colo. -- The town of Trinidad grew quickly at the turn of the 20th century thanks in part to a boom in coal mining.

Coal mining was considered an even more dangerous career back then, due in part to a lack of advanced technology.

To see if coal mines were clear and safe, miners would use canaries (yes, the little birds) and send them flying in. Canaries are very sensitive to toxic gases like carbon monoxide. For that reason, the birds were able to provide early warning signs if 'danger' was ahead, a historian from Trinidad explained.

In the Las Animas County town of Trinidad, locals wanted to pay tribute to the little birds who were given 'thankless jobs'.

So an artist created a large canary statue in the center of town, just a stone's throw from the Coal Miner's Memorial.

There's a plaque attached to the canary memorial and in part it reads, "For centuries, miners have been taking canary birds down into their mines to warn them of potential disaster. If a tunnel or shaft collapses or is blocked, thereby diminishing the oxygen supply, the canary will be the first to react, usually dying, alerting the miners to trouble and to immediately vacate the mine".

The artist who created the memorial is Ms. Susan Norris. According to the plaque, the memorial was dedicated on June 4th, 2010.

To learn more about the memorial, watch Kevin Torres' 'Unique 2 Colorado' story featuring the giant canary by clicking on the video above. You can also learn more about coal mining in Trinidad by visiting the town museum's website.