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Pigeons Flight To Extinction



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The Flight Of The Pigeon

Highly recommended. Full of gorgeous cinematography.. From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction reveals the compelling story of the unlikely extinction of the passenger pigeon. For millennia, the sleek long-distance flyer was the most abundant bird in North America and perhaps the world. Then, in a matter of decades, it was hunted to extinction.

Decoy or "stool pigeons" sometimes blinded by having their eyelids sewn together were tied to a stool. When a flock of pigeons passed by, a cord would be pulled that made the stool pigeon flutter to the ground, making it seem as if it had found food, and the flock would be lured into the trap. Some hunters used sticks to poke the nestlings out of the nest, while others shot the bottom of a nest with a blunt arrow to dislodge the pigeon. Others cut down a nesting tree in such a way that when it fell, it would also hit a second nesting tree and dislodge the pigeons within. By the midth century, railroads had opened new opportunities for pigeon hunters.

While previously it had proved too difficult to ship masses of pigeons to eastern cities, the access provided by the railroad permitted pigeon hunting to become commercialized. By the late 19th century, the trade of passenger pigeons had become commercialized. Large commission houses employed trappers known as "pigeoners" to follow the flocks of pigeons year-round. Pigeons were caught in such numbers that by , shipments of dead pigeons were unable to recoup the costs of the barrels and ice needed to ship them.

Passenger pigeons were instead kept alive so their meat would be fresh when the birds were killed, and sold once their market value had increased again. Thousands of birds were kept in large pens, though the bad conditions led many to die from lack of food and water, and by fretting gnawing themselves; many rotted away before they could be sold. Hunting of passenger pigeons was documented and depicted in contemporaneous newspapers, wherein various trapping methods and uses were featured. The most often reproduced of these illustrations was captioned "Winter sports in northern Louisiana: shooting wild pigeons", and published in Passenger pigeons were also seen as agricultural pests , since entire crops could be destroyed by feeding flocks.

The bird was described as a "perfect scourge" by some farming communities, and hunters were employed to "wage warfare" on the birds to save grain, as shown in another newspaper illustration from captioned as "Shooting wild pigeons in Iowa". The crops that were eaten were seen as marketable calories, proteins, and nutrients all grown for the wrong species. The notion that the species could be driven to extinction was alien to the early colonists, because the number of birds did not appear to diminish, and also because the concept of extinction was yet to be defined. The bird seems to have been slowly pushed westwards after the arrival of Europeans, becoming scarce or absent in the east, though there were still millions of birds in the s. The population must have been decreasing in numbers for many years, though this went unnoticed due to the apparent vast number of birds, which clouded their decline.

Everything leads to the belief that the pigeons, which cannot endure isolation and are forced to flee or to change their way of living according to the rate at which North America is populated by the European inflow, will simply end by disappearing from this continent, and, if the world does not end this before a century, I will wager By the s, the decrease in birds was noticeable, especially after the last large-scale nestings and subsequent slaughters of millions of birds in and By this time, large nestings only took place in the north, around the Great Lakes.

The last large nesting was in Petoskey, Michigan , in following one in Pennsylvania a few days earlier , where 50, birds were killed each day for nearly five months. The surviving adults attempted a second nesting at new sites, but were killed by professional hunters before they had a chance to raise any young. Scattered nestings were reported into the s, but the birds were now wary, and commonly abandoned their nests if persecuted. By the time of these last nestings, laws had already been enacted to protect the passenger pigeon, but these proved ineffective, as they were unclearly framed and hard to enforce.

Roney, who had witnessed the Petoskey slaughter, led campaigns to protect the pigeon, but was met with resistance, and accusations that he was exaggerating the severity of the situation. Few offenders were prosecuted, mainly some poor trappers, but the large enterprises were not affected. Conservationists were ineffective in stopping the slaughter. A bill was passed in the Michigan legislature making it illegal to net pigeons within 3 km 1.

In , a bill was introduced in the Michigan legislature asking for a year closed season on passenger pigeons. Similar legal measures were passed and then disregarded in Pennsylvania. The gestures proved futile, and by the mids, the passenger pigeon had almost completely disappeared, and was probably extinct as a breeding bird in the wild. Thereafter, only small groups or individual birds were reported, many of which were shot on sight.

The last recorded nest and egg in the wild were collected in near Minneapolis. The last wild individual in Louisiana was discovered among a flock of mourning doves in , and subsequently shot. Many late sightings are thought to be false or due to confusion with mourning doves. This was not discovered until , when writer Joel Greenberg found out the date of the bird's shooting while doing research for his book A Feathered River Across the Sky. Greenberg also pointed out a record of a male shot near Laurel, Indiana , on April 3, , that was stuffed but later destroyed. For many years, the last confirmed wild passenger pigeon was thought to have been shot near Sargents , Pike County, Ohio , on March 24, , when a female bird was killed by a boy named Press Clay Southworth with a BB gun.

The specimen, nicknamed "Buttons" due to the buttons used instead of glass eyes, was donated to the Ohio Historical Society by the family in The reliability of accounts after the Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana birds are in question. President Theodore Roosevelt claimed to have seen a bird in Michigan in Most captive passenger pigeons were kept for exploitative purposes, but some were housed in zoos and aviaries.

Audubon alone claimed to have brought birds to England in , distributing them among various noblemen, and the species is also known to have been kept at London Zoo. Being common birds, these attracted little interest, until the species became rare in the s. By the turn of the 20th century, the last known captive passenger pigeons were divided in three groups; one in Milwaukee, one in Chicago, and one in Cincinnati. There are claims of a few further individuals having been kept in various places, but these accounts are not considered reliable today. The Milwaukee group was kept by David Whittaker, who began his collection in , and possessed fifteen birds some years later, all descended from a single pair.

The Chicago group was kept by Charles Otis Whitman , whose collection began with passenger pigeons bought from Whittaker beginning in He had an interest in studying pigeons, and kept his passenger pigeons with other pigeon species. Whitman brought his pigeons with him from Chicago to Massachusetts by railcar each summer. By , Whitman had bought all of Whittaker's birds, and upon reaching a maximum of 19 individuals, he gave seven back to Whittaker in Around this time, a series of photographs were taken of these birds; 24 of the photos survive. Some of these images have been reproduced in various media, copies of which are now kept at the Wisconsin Historical Society. It is unclear exactly where, when, and by whom these photos were taken, but some appear to have been taken in Chicago in , others in Massachusetts in , the latter by a J.

By , Whitman owned sixteen birds. Many eggs were laid by his pigeons, but few hatched, and many hatchlings died. A newspaper inquiry was published that requested "fresh blood" to the flock which had now ceased breeding. By , he was down to two female passenger pigeons that died that winter, and was left with two infertile male hybrids, whose subsequent fate is unknown. By this time, only four all males of the birds Whitman had returned to Whittaker were alive, and these died between November and February The Cincinnati Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States, kept passenger pigeons from its beginning in The zoo kept more than twenty individuals, in a ten-by-twelve-foot cage.

Other sources argue that Martha was hatched at the Cincinnati Zoo, had lived there for 25 years, and was the descendant of three pairs of passenger pigeons purchased by the zoo in It is thought this individual was named Martha because her last cage mate was named George, thereby honoring George Washington and his wife Martha , though it has also been claimed she was named after the mother of a zookeeper's friends. In , Martha and her two male companions at the Cincinnati Zoo became the only known surviving passenger pigeons.

One of these males died around April that year, followed by George, the remaining male, on July 10, During her last four years in solitude her cage was 5. Martha was on display for many years, but after a period in the museum vaults, she was put back on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Incidentally, the last specimen of the extinct Carolina parakeet , named "Incus," died in Martha's cage in ; the stuffed remains of that bird are exhibited in the "Memorial Hut". The main reasons for the extinction of the passenger pigeon were the massive scale of hunting, the rapid loss of habitat, and the extremely social lifestyle of the bird, which made it highly vulnerable to the former factors.

Deforestation was driven by the need to free land for agriculture and expanding towns, but also due to the demand for lumber and fuel. About , km 2 million acres were cleared for farming between and Though there are still large woodland areas in eastern North America, which support a variety of wildlife, it was not enough to support the vast number of passenger pigeons needed to sustain the population. In contrast, very small populations of nearly extinct birds, such as the kakapo Strigops habroptilus and the takahe Porphyrio hochstetteri , have been enough to keep those species extant to the present. The combined effects of intense hunting and deforestation has been referred to as a " Blitzkrieg " against the passenger pigeon, and it has been labeled one of the greatest and most senseless human-induced extinctions in history.

The genetic study that found natural fluctuations in population numbers prior to human arrival also concluded that the species routinely recovered from lows in the population, and suggested that one of these lows may have coincided with the intensified hunting by humans in the s, a combination which would have led to the rapid extinction of the species. A similar scenario may also explain the rapid extinction of the Rocky Mountain locust Melanoplus spretus during the same period.

Other, less convincing contributing factors have been suggested at times, including mass drownings, Newcastle disease , and migrations to areas outside their original range. The extinction of the passenger pigeon aroused public interest in the conservation movement , and resulted in new laws and practices which prevented many other species from becoming extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN has used the passenger pigeon as an example in cases where a species was declared "at risk" for extinction even though population numbers are high.

Naturalist Aldo Leopold paid tribute to the vanished species in a monument dedication held by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology at Wyalusing State Park , Wisconsin , which had been one of the species' social roost sites. Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons. Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know. Today, more than 1, passenger pigeon skins along with 16 skeletons are in existence, spread across many institutions all over the world.

In , the Pyrenean ibex Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica , a subspecies of the Spanish ibex was the first extinct animal to be cloned back to life; the clone lived for only seven minutes before dying of lung defects. American geneticist George M. Church has proposed that the passenger pigeon genome can be reconstructed by piecing together DNA fragments from different specimens. The next step would be to splice these genes into the stem cells of rock pigeons or band-tailed pigeons , which would then be transformed into egg and sperm cells, and placed into the eggs of rock pigeons, resulting in rock pigeons bearing passenger pigeon sperm and eggs.

The offspring of these would have passenger pigeon traits, and would be further bred to favor unique features of the extinct species. The general idea of re-creating extinct species has been criticized, since the large funds needed could be spent on conserving currently threatened species and habitats, and because conservation efforts might be viewed as less urgent. In the case of the passenger pigeon, since it was very social, it is unlikely that enough birds could be created for revival to be successful, and it is unclear whether there is enough appropriate habitat left for its reintroduction.

Furthermore, the parent pigeons that would raise the cloned passenger pigeons would belong to a different species, with a different way of rearing young. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Extinct migratory pigeon previously endemic to North America. For the mumblecore film, see Passenger Pigeons film. Temporal range: 5. Conservation status. Extinct IUCN 3. Linnaeus , Play media. See also: Martha passenger pigeon. London: W. Innys and R. In Baskett, T. Ecology and management of the Mourning Dove. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. Bibcode : Sci PMID Swainson on several new groups in Ornithology". The Zoological Journal. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Procedure in Taxonomy Third ed. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 90 : — January 16, Should Doves be Hunted in Iowa? Archived from the original on September 20, Retrieved April 23, Boston: Otis, Broaders, and Company. Extinct Birds. Annals of Anatomy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Ancient DNA. Methods in Molecular Biology. PLOS One. Bibcode : PLoSO PMC The Auk. JSTOR Mershon, W. The Passenger Pigeon. Online Etymology Dictionary. Culture and History of the Delaware Tribe. Delaware Tribe of Indians. Archived from the original on October 6, Ojibwe People's Dictionary.

Retrieved March 2, Wolfart, H. Papers of the 36th Algonquian Conference. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba. Sussex: Pica Press. Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. Encyclopedia Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on March 13, Retrieved April 22, Extinct Birds Revised ed. The Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius Linn. Edinburgh: A. Conservation Biology. April Chicago, Illinois.

Retrieved February 29, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Bibcode : PNAS.. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved June 17, New York: Vintage. S2CID Their large population may have been what did them in". Retrieved March 4, The Washington Post. Molecular Biology and Evolution. French Edition. April 10, PLOS Biology. September 11, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Functional Ecology. Forest Ecology and Management. ISSN UC Santa Cruz. Human Ecology. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. Archived from the original PDF on April 25, Retrieved December 3, Journal of Parasitology. Humans hunted passenger pigeons for food and feathers long before Europeans came to North America, but something changed in the s. Technology turned the hunts into an industrial slaughter, with pigeoners using the telegraph to track flocks and the railroad to move their spoils. People used all kinds of maniacal tactics to kill pigeons, including burning down nest trees, baiting the birds with alcohol-soaked grain, trapping them in huge nets and even luring them with captive pigeons on small perches — the origin of the term "stool pigeon.

And when pigeon populations began to plummet, the hunters doubled down. Toward the end, they just started raiding all the nests. They wanted to get every last bird, squeeze every last penny out of them before they were gone. As with many of today's environmental issues, there was also an effort to obscure the missing pigeons. Or they would say the birds moved to South America and changed their appearance. For anyone who had seen torrents of passenger pigeons in the s and s, it was hard to believe they were nearly extinct in the s.

After the final holdouts in Michigan vanished, many people assumed the birds moved farther west, maybe to Arizona or Puget Sound. Henry Ford even suggested the entire species had made a break for Asia. Eventually, though, denial gave way to grim acceptance. The last-known wild passenger pigeon was shot April 3, , in Laurel, Indiana. Three captive flocks of passenger pigeons made it into the s, but cages were poor substitutes for forests that once hosted up to nests per tree. Without their natural population density — or modern captive-breeding standards — these highly social birds didn't stand a chance. Two captive flocks in Milwaukee and Chicago were dead by , leaving just Martha and two males at the Cincinnati Zoo.

After those males died in and , Martha was the " endling " of her species. Named after first lady Martha Washington, Martha pictured was born in captivity and spent her life in cages. She was a celebrity by the time she died, reportedly at age She had suffered an apoplectic stroke several weeks earlier, requiring the zoo to build a lower perch since she was too weak to reach her old one.

Martha's body was immediately frozen in a pound block of ice and shipped by train to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where she was preserved as a taxidermy mount and anatomical specimen. Even rarer than watching a species go extinct, however, is watching one come back. Its goal is to revive more recently extinct species, and to return them to the wild rather than hoarding them in a theme park.

The morphologically similar mourning dove Zenaida macroura was long thought to Pigeons Flight To Extinction its closest relative, and the Pigeons Flight To Extinction were at times confused, but genetic analysis has shown that the genus Pigeons Flight To Extinction is more closely related to it than Pigeons Flight To Extinction Zenaida doves. A Pigeons Flight To Extinction individuals tried to Finding Nemo Essay the killing, but most of Pigeons Flight To Extinction effort on Pigeons Flight To Extinction of the species occurred well too late to save it. Scattered Language In The Alchemist were reported into the Pigeons Flight To Extinction, but the birds were now wary, and commonly abandoned their nests if persecuted. The Chicago group was kept Pigeons Flight To Extinction Charles Otis Whitmanwhose collection began with passenger pigeons bought Pigeons Flight To Extinction Whittaker beginning in Incidentally, the last specimen of the Pigeons Flight To Extinction Harvey Milk Film Analysis parakeetnamed "Incus," died in Martha's cage in ; Pigeons Flight To Extinction bernie madoff documentary Pigeons Flight To Extinction of that bird are exhibited in the "Memorial Hut".