Passenger Pigeon Facts
What was once one of the most numerous bird species in the United States is now on the list of extinct animals. When the Passenger Pigeon, also called the
Wild Pigeon, was at its peak in the early 19th century, there are estimates that there were about 5 billion of these birds throughout the U.S., Mexico, and
Canada. Although Native Americans and colonists relied on these birds for food, it wasn't until Midwesterners, who began hunting and shipping them, that the
pigeon's demise began. Passenger Pigeons would be shipped in mass by railroad to where crowded cities were forming in the east. Another fact contributing to
why this animal is extinct today was the rapid deforestation of its habitat by settlers. Scientific facts and information suggest this bird may someday be
brought back to life genetically through stored Passenger Pigeon DNA.
Please read the lists below for more information about this interesting animal; written for both kids and adults to enjoy.
Passenger Pigeon General Facts
- When the birds migrated from one area to another, the flocks would be so dense that they were reported to have blocked the sun's rays for hundreds of miles.
- Out of all the extinct species in the world, the Passenger Pigeon may have the distinction of being the only one with a recorded extinction date and time. The last member of this species was named Martha and she lived in the Cincinnati Zoo. She died on September 1, 1914 at 1:00pm.
- Passenger Pigeons survived on a diet of assorted nuts including beechnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts and acorns, as well as fruits and small insects.
- The Passenger Pigeons, especially the young chicks who were left to fend for themselves at two weeks old, were prey to many animals including wolves, bears, foxes, snakes, rodents, boars, and other birds.
- In the mid-1800s, conservationists tried to bring attention to the severity of the declining population of Passenger Pigeons but little was done. Eventually legislation was passed to limit hunting of these birds, but was not fully enforced. By the 1890s there were so few birds left that it was too late to save them.
Passenger Pigeon Descriptive Facts
- The Passenger Pigeon was similar in appearance to the Morning Dove, but larger in size.
- The wings of the Passenger Pigeon had a blue hue, the head was slate blue, the backside was gray, the chest was a soft red and the tail was grey and white.
- The male Passenger Pigeons were brighter, more attractive and slightly larger than the females.
- The Passenger Pigeon was able to fly for long periods of time at rates of up to 60-70 mph (96.56 km/h - 112.63 km/h), thanks to elongated wings and powerful breast muscles.
Passenger Pigeon Nesting Facts
- Passenger Pigeons only laid one egg at a time, which both parents incubated and took care of equally until about two weeks after the chick, or squab,
- The nests of the Passenger Pigeon were always found in close proximity to one another. Over a million birds could occupy one large nesting ground that were reported to reach up to 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers).
- Because nesting colonies were so densely populated, the Passenger Pigeons were easy targets for ruthless hunters who would communicate through telegraph as to where the nesting sites were located.
- Nests were typically made of small branches and twigs and up to 100 nests could be found in one single tree.
- Each year the birds would move to a new sight.