Passenger pigeon

Ectopistes migratorius

The passenger pigeon was a very fast-flying North American pigeon. It is a striking example of an extinction by humans as it was once the most populous bird in North America. The arrival of Europeans to the continent quickly reduced the number from 4 billion to 0.

Passenger pigeons were described as being extremely social. They often travelled as billions in a single flock. This means the flocks must have contained nearly every living passenger pigeon alive at that point. They were described by observers as taking over a day to pass by.

The number and coordination of passenger pigeons was so immense that they had a clearly noticeable effect on the forests of North America. The pigeon ate white oak acorns. As a result, it was a primary method of seed dispersal for the white oak. Since the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the white oak has dropped in number, leading to the dominance of the red oak today.

Countries

Countries where the Passenger pigeon lived

Habitat

The passenger pigeon lived throughout the deciduous forests of North America.

Passenger pigeon habitat

Extinction

The pigeon was driven to extinction by a number of factors, all ultimately due to the massive growth of European settlers.

  1. Huge scale hunting
    The passenger pigeon was targeted as a cheap, easily huntable source of food. Its tendency to remain in such massive flocks made it trivial to hunt, once the flock had been found.

  2. Deforestation
    The passenger pigeon suffered its greatest losses during the American industrial boom of the 1800s. During this period, a huge number of trees were chopped down to power the engine of economic growth. A large area were needed to keep the populations sustainable.

The last passenger pigeon died in Cincinnati zoo in 1914.

The passenger pigeon has become a symbol of the ecological costs of American Industrialisation.

Extinction Year
1914

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