~ George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason
The Passenger Pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, went into a catastrophic decline in numbers and then extinction by 1914.
Similar in looks to the Mourning Dove, they lived in enormous flocks and during migration it was possible to see up to a billion birds taking several days to pass. Some reduction in numbers occurred as a result of loss of habitat when the Europeans started settling further inland.
Overhunting also played a large part in their destruction. Conservationists were able to get a bill passed in the Michigan legislature making it illegal to net pigeons within two miles of a nesting area, but the law was weakly enforced.
One of the last large nestings of passenger pigeons was at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Over 50,000 birds were killed each day and the hunt continued for nearly five months. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by American sportsmen knowing that it was the last flock of that size.
The last Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. Within a few decades, the once most numerous bird on Earth was gone.
However, the extinction of the passenger pigeon aroused public interest in the conservation movement and resulted in new laws and practices which have prevented many other species from going extinct.
Wild Birds Unlimited is deeply committed to educating the public about the importance of understanding our environment and preserving our natural wildlife habitats. With every purchase you make, Wild Birds Unlimited stores donate a portion of the proceeds to support education, conservation and wildlife viewing projects at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and nature conservancies throughout North America. We also partner with several organizations listed below to bring people and nature together.
Click on the links to find out more about some of these organizations.
- American Bird Conservancy
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Bird Studies Canada
- The Organization for Bat Conservation
- The Purple Martin Conservation Association
- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- The National Wildlife Federation
- The National Audubon Society
- The North American Bluebird Society
- Chipper Woods Bird Observatory
- The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Foundation
- Pathways to Nature