Thursday, October 11, 2012


One of the recurring themes of this class is that we should put more effort into conservation BEFORE species become too rare (and probably less effort into it once the situation is hopeless.) I'm reminded of this when I look at how Passenger Pigeons were treated before and after their demise.

At Woodstock, Ontario, about 1870, Dr. A.B. Welford found himself well placed under the path of a huge flock of passenger pigeons. He started shooting early in the morning, using a double-barreled muzzle-loader. By 10 a.m. he had run out of ammunition after killing more than 400 birds. The pigeons continued to stream low over a fence behind which the doctor was hiding, so he grabbed a long rail, held it aloft and found he could easily bring down more birds. The doctor was proud of his exploit, and since the supply of game seemed inexhaustible—the flight lasted for several days—he allowed his experiences to appear in The Ibis, a magazine for bird lovers.

(From  Sports Illustrated)

After (the last bird, Martha died in 1914)
"Martha" was on display in the Bird Hall in the 1920s through the early 1950s, and in the Birds of the World exhibit that ran from 1956 until 1999. She has left the Smithsonian Institution twice since arriving here. In 1966 she was displayed in San Diego at the San Diego Zoological Society’s Golden Jubilee Conservation Conference. In June 1974 she returned to the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens for the dedication of a new building named in her honor. Both times she was flown first class, with an airline flight attendant escorting her for the entire trip.
(From the Smithsonian)

First Class? Seriously, a dead bird?

You can hear John Herald's song, Martha, last of the passenger pigeons, at his website here. (Warning folk music ahead).

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