The last surviving bird may have died 100 years ago, but did you know that the passenger pigeon used to be the most abundant bird in North America?
By: Ringo Bones
Even though this poor bird's extinction happened 100 years ago and the reason why it became extinct is an indictment on how we inadvertently and tacitly support the globalized corporate world's callous disregard to our planet's fragile ecology, one could be labeled as a "crazy alarmist" if he or she told the mid-Victorian era ornithological community that the passenger pigeon will eventually be driven into extinction. In hindsight, it is now quite ironic that what was then the most abundant wild bird - not just in the North American continent - but the whole world has ever known at the time should have become the very symbol of wildlife extinction.
The passenger pigeon, estimated to number perhaps 5-billion individual birds in the heyday of famed ornithologists Audubon and Wilson, had a population as great as that of all other breeding land birds in the United States at that time combined. Although the last wild bird was shot in March 1900, a few lived on in captivity until the passenger pigeon named Martha - the then lone survivor - died in the Cincinnati Zoo back on September 1, 1914, at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.
As we reflect on the 100th anniversary of the extinction of this once abundant North American bird species, the passenger pigeon were once esteemed for their delicate flavor; their crowded nesting grounds and communal flights made them very east prey to wholesale shooting and netting. Some passenger pigeon meat supply companies ever resorted to dynamiting flocks just to meet the demands of rising restaurant demands in the New York hotel and restaurant boom of the 1850s that were hooked to the "tasty" passenger pigeon meat. By 1880, it was already too late to save them as the last wild passenger pigeon was shot in 1900 and the last individual bird - named Martha - was the last one to die in the Cincinnati Zoo, thus marking the passenger pigeon's exact time of extinction almost to the exact second back in September 1, 1914.