I’ve always been fascinated by the plight of the passenger pigeon ever since my mom told me about them when I was a kid. So when I heard that Joel Greenberg, a Chicago author and natural history researcher was speaking at the Wagner Free Science Institute of Science five minutes from my house I had to go.
Above is a stuffed passenger pigeon from the lecture, on loan from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.
John James Audubon rode the 55 miles from Henderson, Kentucky, to Louisville one day in autumn 1813, and through the whole long day, he rode under a sky darkened from horizon to horizon by a cloud of passenger pigeons. He estimated that more than a billion birds had passed over him. In 1866, a cloud of birds passed into southern Ontario. It was a mile wide, 300 miles long, and took 14 hours to pass a single point.
A single nesting area could cover 50 square miles, with nests covering every branch of every tree.
You’re in luck since you missed the talk. You can listen to yesterday’s interview with Greenberg on WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.
Greenberg’s Passenger Pigeon Project
Greenberg’s Book: A Feathered River Across the Sky