Passenger Pigeons – They Darkened the Skies

Passenger Pigeons – They Darkened the Skies

ambience: Pigeons
We don’t know what Passenger Pigeons really sounded like., but perhaps it was a bit like this. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We’re coming up to the hundredth anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon – once one of the most abundant bird species on earth. The worlds largest collection of stuffed passenger pigeons is in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. Mark Peck is manager of the Ornithology Collections.

Peck: This one was collected in Hamilton, 1863. So that’s over, what – a 150 years old at this point. The wonderful thing about passenger pigeons is that they’re thought to be the most common birds on earth. They talk about a population of 6 billion birds darkening the skies for three days, when the big flocks came in to feed on the acorns. So it was a remarkable bird in a lot of ways. And to think that a bird that was so common could go extinct – in really 50 years, due to habitat loss, due to hunting pressures and market hunting. It should be a really clear idea, just how quickly even common species can go extinct.
You could go into these huge breeding colonies, and you could shoot as many as twenty or twenty-five birds with a single shot. They’d be quickly – feathers removed and stuffed into barrels and salted. They’d be used in some of the finer restaurants in New York and Chicago and Toronto. They talk about trains carrying nothing but passenger pigeons down to some of the bigger cities in barrels.

Would it ever be possible to see a passenger pigeon again, alive and flying? Well, maybe. Well find out how in our next program. My thanks to Britt Wray for recording the interview. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future though a hands-on approach to education and research.

Passenger Pigeons - They Darkened the Skies

Once thought to be one of the most abundant bird species on earth, Passenger Pigeons were hunted to extinction 100 years ago.
Air Date:12/10/2013
Scientist:
Transcript:

Passenger Pigeons - They Darkened the Skies

ambience: Pigeons
We don't know what Passenger Pigeons really sounded like., but perhaps it was a bit like this. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're coming up to the hundredth anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon - once one of the most abundant bird species on earth. The worlds largest collection of stuffed passenger pigeons is in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. Mark Peck is manager of the Ornithology Collections.

Peck: This one was collected in Hamilton, 1863. So that's over, what - a 150 years old at this point. The wonderful thing about passenger pigeons is that they're thought to be the most common birds on earth. They talk about a population of 6 billion birds darkening the skies for three days, when the big flocks came in to feed on the acorns. So it was a remarkable bird in a lot of ways. And to think that a bird that was so common could go extinct - in really 50 years, due to habitat loss, due to hunting pressures and market hunting. It should be a really clear idea, just how quickly even common species can go extinct.
You could go into these huge breeding colonies, and you could shoot as many as twenty or twenty-five birds with a single shot. They'd be quickly - feathers removed and stuffed into barrels and salted. They'd be used in some of the finer restaurants in New York and Chicago and Toronto. They talk about trains carrying nothing but passenger pigeons down to some of the bigger cities in barrels.

Would it ever be possible to see a passenger pigeon again, alive and flying? Well, maybe. Well find out how in our next program. My thanks to Britt Wray for recording the interview. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future though a hands-on approach to education and research.