Martha the Passenger Pigeon

Martha the Passenger PigeonThis is Martha, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon. She died on 1st September 1914. The last wild one was seen by a boy in Ohio in 1900, who shot it. Passenger Pigeons weren’t Dodos or Pandas; 200 years ago they were probably the most prolific bird on the planet.

Flocks of millions of birds darkened the skies of the U.S., where some nesting sites were estimated to have up to 150 million birds each, spread over hundreds of square miles. In 1813 Audubon was under a flock, travelling at 60 mph, which took 3 days to fly over him. At around the same time Alexander Wilson saw a flock he estimated at over 2 BILLION birds. Why did they suddenly disappear? They were shot in huge numbers for food and their traditional roosts, in vast hardwood forests, were decimated by logging and land clearance. Sound familiar?

The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon is shocking. In a complicated world it is one of the most unambiguous instances of the potential of man to do irreversible damage to the planet. Let’s not forget the power we have.