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NFC: Passenger Pigeon in my non fish conservation posts :0

Again what could 20 Conservation minded , dedicated folks have done to
save this species....Our challenge is this in 100 years what fish species
will be gone and what will we have done to stop it ...Back to non
preacher lurker mode ....Have a Pleasant Holiday and take your family for
a trip outside this weekend....:)

The Passenger Pigeon
An American Tragedy
The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius).
The Passenger Pigeon was at one time by far the most abundant species of
bird in the United States, with individual flocks containing millions of
birds and the general population estimated in the billions. These huge
flocks that at times would take more than a day to pass thru, were both
part of their protection, may well have contributed to their demise. 

The Passenger Pigeon was slightly larger than the morning dove or about
the size of the domestic pigeon (approx weight 12 - 14 oz). Recorded
measurements by Audubon are for the male 16 1/2 inches in length 25 inch
wing-span. For the female 15 inch length, 23 inch wing-span. 

The diet of the Passenger Pigeon consisted primarily of grains, berries,
seeds, and acorns, but also included insects and worms. 

The passenger pigeon did not migrate north in summer, south in winter,
but except when nesting did not stay long in any one place. Its range
covered all of the eastern U.S. Its huge appetite (as a flock) required a
gypsy or nomad style of existence. 

The nesting behavior was in itself very unique in several ways. 1). the
entire flock arrived ready to nest at the same time, from arrival to
laying of the one egg was 3 days. 2). incubation was 12-13 days, normal
for the dove and pigeon is 16-18 days 3). the squab was fed in the nest
for 14 days then the entire flock would literally move out. The young
would drop to the ground and live on worms, seeds, etc for the next week
before they could fly. 

The sites chosen for these mass nestings, though they appeared to be
random, had very several specific requirements and conditions.
1).lots of twigs (no fires for several yrs) to build the 1,000's of
2). bumper crop of the beech tree (food-beechnuts) for the young.
3). Water supplies within the nest site. 
4). the proper soil conditions to support large earthworm populations. 

There is no doubt man played the major role in the extinction of the
Passenger Pigeon. Though the shooting and killing was certainly one
factor, Loss of preferred habitat, especially the prime nesting areas to
the farmers plow had to be a factor. The extremely precise requirements
to trigger the nesting-en-masse and the relatively short 7 yr fertility
of the females, may also have been contributing factors. 

One disturbing item of note is that there are reports the passenger
pigeon was rather easily kept and bred in captivity. It is not clear why
all captive birds died off, it is suggested in-breeding (too few genetic
sources), and the short fertility period, may be the major contributing

The last wild bird was shot by an 8 yr old Pike County Ohio farm boy in

The last known survivor, 'Martha', died Sept 1, 1914 in Cincinnati, Ohio
-Zoological Gardens. The remains were shipped to Washington D.C. and
today are displayed at the Smithsonian. A museum is in place at the
Zoological Gardens in Cincinnati. Martha and her mate 'George' (he died
in 1910) lived captivity for over 20 years. 

 Passenger Pigeon, Best image I have found 

Robert Rice
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