Barry’s interest in wildlife dates to his earliest memories. His late mother was a pioneer in wildlife rehabilitation, and Barry grew up in a house that was filled with wildlife. He also assisted his mother and other adults in banding many thousands of birds, and learned to become a skilled preparator of preserved bird specimens of value to science and necessary in much of his artwork, since art was of equal interest and importance to him, also for as long as he can remember. He devoted his life and career to the study of natural history, and the protection of birds and other wildlife. He has maintained a thirty plus year relationship with the Animal Protection Institute, which recently became Born Free USA, doing animal protection work. He is also a founding director of Zoocheck-Canada; a founding director of the Animal Alliance of Canada; a founding member of Species Survival Network, a member and former executive officer of the Toronto Ornithological Club; a member and former director of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists; a former director of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; a former director of the Toronto Humane Society; a former director of the Canadian Society for Endangered Birds; a life member of the Wilson Ornithological Society; a member of the Ontario Field Ornithologists; an honorary life member of the Second Marsh Defense Association, an honorary life member of the Pickering Naturalists and a member of the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators and a member of Artists for Conservation.
Barry has participated in numerous activities related to bird and nature study and conservation. As a fast sketch artist he promoted interest in wildlife during 16 years of appearances on a nationally syndicated children’s television show. He did field work for the Royal Ontario Museum and for the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Costa Rica; illustrated the reptiles and amphibians of the Toronto Zoo; illustrates various scientific covers and papers in various technical journals. He was well known and respected for his Nature Trail column, published weekly in the Toronto Star for a period of 25 years. His writings and articles have appeared in numerous magazines such as Birds of the Wild; Defenders; BirdWatchers’ Digest; Seasons; Mainstream; and Animal Issues; and as feature articles in The Toronto Star and various other publications, large and small. He now regularly blogs for Born Free USA and other organizations.
Barry’s fine art has graced the pages of many popular magazines such as City; Defenders; Bird Watchers Digest; Ontario Naturalist; Seasons; Mainstream; National Audubon; and journals such as The Living Bird and Ontario Birds and The Journal of Raptor Research. He was named the year’s artist for 2013 by Environment for the Americas’ International Migratory Bird Day, and the 2013 artist of the year by Bird Studies Canada.
He has also illustrated several books such as Wrens, Mockingbirds and Dippers of the World (by A. D. Brewer, Pica Press, U.K., 2001), A Field Guide to the Birds of the Galapagos (by M.P. Harris, Collins, 1974) and Songbirds: Celebrating Nature’s Voices (by Ronald I. Orenstein, Key Porter, 1997), and Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti (Steven Latta., et al., Princeton University Press, 2006).He wrote and illustrated the Birdwatcher’s Companion ( Key Porter, 1994). In 1968 the Book Society published Eighty More Land Birds to Know, written and illustrated by a youthful Barry Kent MacKay. “I try to forget that one,” laughs Barry, but he is pleased to admit that one of his proudest moments came when his mentor, Roger Tory Peterson, chose one of his oil paintings of Ruddy Turnstones as an illustration for The Audubon Society Baby Elephant Folio, Audubon’s Birds of America, by Roger Tory Peterson and Virginia Marie Peterson, Abbeville Press, 1981. Wash drawings by Barry appeared in Birds of the Oshawa – Lake Scugog Region, by Ronald G. Tozer and James M. Richards (1974).