On March 24th 1900 a boy in Ohio shot the last recorded Passenger Pigeon. The last captive Passenger Pigeon died in her cage at Cincinnati Zoo 14 years later.
Passenger Pigeons were once so numerous there were stories of flocks millions or even billions of birds big that would darken the sky for a day as they passed.
When Europeans came to the Americas, 40% of all the birds in North America were Passenger Pigeons. Their range spread from Canada through to the Northeastern and Midwestern US down to the Southern states. It’s estimated they might have been the most common bird in the entire world.
John James Audubon (who shot many many birds for his portraits) described a flock in 1933 that was a mile wide and blocked the sun for three days.
In the 19th century the post-Civil War urban population explosion led to demands for more wild meats. Thousands of men became pigeon hunters. It took them less than half century to drive one the most populous birds in the country extinct.
So in their memory visit some of the endangered species we can still save at your local zoo and make an origami Passenger Pigeon at Fold the Flock. The flock has been growing since 2014, the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon.
Fold the Flock is an initiative of The Lost Bird Project. As I understand it, their idea is that art can reach people when thought doesn’t always, so try to bring home the reality of extinction and what we’ve lost though art.
For another view of the intersection of art and extinction (and stunning crochet) check out Laurel Roth Hope’s biodiversity suits collection. They’re extinct species costumes for common pigeons. Interview with her here.