Passenger Pigeons, who hasn’t heard of them? Probably the most well known bird species in the world, certainly the most abundant according to records. John Audubon the great American ornithologist, described the flight of the migrating flocks of Passenger Pigeons as darkening the sky for hours and making a sound like the distant rumbling of thunder.

The flocks were said to cover an area 1 mile wide and 300 miles long. Numbers estimated at 2 billion. The birds were slaughtered in huge numbers until the killing of the last flock estimated at 250,000 in one day in 1896. The last pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo in 1914, a female named Martha.

In a book I have, printed in 1967, there is the thought that despite the massive slaughter of these small doves over the years, their actual extinction occurred within the single year when the birds who survived the mass slaughter were wiped out in the wild by an epidemic. Whichever story is true, for a species of such incredible numbers to be wiped out in the blink of an eye by humans is difficult to believe, or understand. Have we learned anything? I think probably not.

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