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Naturalist Notebook 

March 24, 2014

A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon

 

A passenger pigeon from the Academy’s Department of Ornithology & Mammalogy will be on Display in the Naturalist Center’s Cabinet of Curiosities April through September 1, 2014.

Martha_last_passenger_pigeon_1914

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, in her enclosure in 1914 (Image, Wikimedia Commons)

 

When Europeans first arrived in North America, flocks of passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius) blanketed the skies so much so that “the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse,” as naturalist and painter John James Audubon observed. Estimated at 3 to 5 billion birds, passenger pigeons were the most numerous birds on the continent, possibly even the world. On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last of her species, died in captivity.

To mark the 100th anniversary of this extinction, the Naturalist Center is displaying a passenger pigeon from the Academy’s Department of Ornithology & Mammalogy. It will be on exhibit with other specimens until Sept. 1, 2014.

 


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