At almost every archaeological dig site in Ohio, skeletal remains of passenger pigeons have been found. However, these birds weren't evenly spread out over the expanse of Mexico, Canada, and the United States; rather, they traversed the continent in enormous flocks that literally blocked out the sun and stretched for dozens (or even hundreds) of miles from end to end. Not surprisingly, these breeding grounds were referred to at the time as "cities.". It lived in enormous migratory flocks — sometimes containing more than two billion birds — that could stretch one mile (1.6 km) wide and 300 miles (500 km) long across the sky, sometimes taking several hours to pass. The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback began in 2012 with a central paradigm: de-extinction needed a model candidate. Indigenous peoples preferred to target passenger pigeon hatchlings, in moderation, but once immigrants from the Old World arrived, all bets were off: passenger pigeons were hunted by the barrel-load, and were a crucial source of food for inland colonists who might have starved to death otherwise. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them.". Although the passenger pigeon is now extinct, scientists still have access to its soft tissues, which have been preserved in numerous museum specimens around the world. The passenger pigeon figured prominently in the diets of both Native Americans and the European settlers who arrived in North America in the 16th century. To date, though, no one has taken on this challenging task. In 2009, a pigeon named Winston raced Telkom, South Africa's largest ISP, to see who could deliver 4GB of data to a location 60 miles awa. It had dull colored feathers as compared to males down. One of these was Mark Catesby's description of the passenger pigeon, which was published in his 1731 to 1743 work Natural History of Carolina, Florida a… By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Interesting Passenger pigeon Facts: Passenger pigeon was 15.5 to 16.5 inches long and it had 12 to 14 ounces of weight. (Passenger pigeon flocks and nesting grounds were so dense that even an incompetent hunter could kill dozens of birds with a single shotgun blast. The overall length of an adult male was about 39 to 41 cm (15.4 to 16.1 in) and they weighed up to 260 and 340 g (9 and 12 oz). The habit of concentrating in great numbers proved disastrous because it facilitated mass slaughter by humans. Things really went south for the passenger pigeon when it was tapped as a food source for the increasingly crowded cities of the Eastern seaboard. Research on the Passenger Pigeon’s ecology and habitat revealed its vital role: the Passenger Pigeon was the ecosystem engineer of eastern North American forests for tens of thousands of years, shaping the patchwork habitat dynamics that eastern ecosystems rely on, ecosystems now losing diversity without the Passenger Pigeon’s engineering role. The baby would remain on the ground until it was able to fly, usually a few days later. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/animal/passenger-pigeon, Smithsonian - Encyclopedia - The Passenger Pigeon, Stanford University - The Passenger Pigeon. Theoretically, it may be possible to combine fragments of DNA extracted from these tissues with the genome of an existing species of pigeon, and then breed the passenger pigeon back into existence—a controversial process known as de-extinction. If you're a fan of crime movies, you may have wondered about the origin of the phrase "stool pigeon." The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was once probably the most common bird in the world. Of all the extinct species that have ever lived, the passenger pigeon had the most spectacular demise, plummeting from a population of billions to a population of exactly zero in less than 100 years. But now the species is known definitively to be extinct. The passenger pigeon figured prominently in the diets of both Native Americans and the European settlers who arrived in North America in the 16th century. Hunting alone could not have wiped out the passenger pigeon in such a short period of time. What was once one of the most numerous bird species in the United States is now on the list of extinct animals. They can also recognise each letter of the human alphabet, differentiate between photographs, and even distinguish different humans within a photograph. Passenger Pigeon Facts. By the end of the 19th century, there was probably nothing anyone could do to save the passenger pigeon. ", Passenger Pigeons Used to Flock by the Billions, Nearly Everyone in North America Ate Passenger Pigeons, Passenger Pigeons Were Hunted with the Aid of 'Stool Pigeons', Tons of Dead Passenger Pigeons Were Shipped East in Railroad Cars, Passenger Pigeons Laid Their Eggs One at a Time, Newly Hatched Passenger Pigeons Were Nourished With 'Crop Milk', Deforestation and Hunting Doomed the Passenger Pigeon, Conservationists Tried to Save the Passenger Pigeon, The Last Passenger Pigeon Died in Captivity in 1914, It May Be Possible to Resurrect the Passenger Pigeon, How the Sixth Mass Extinction Affects the U.S. Economy, 10 Recently Extinct Insects and Invertebrates, Prehistoric Life During the Pleistocene Epoch, 5 Environmental Consequences of Oil Spills, 10 Facts About Maiasaura, the 'Good Mother Dinosaur'. The young mourning dove does not have the black spot on its neck. The pigeon sometimes foraged in newly planted grainfields but otherwise did little damage to crops. Pigeons are incredibly complex and intelligent animals. At one point in time, billions of these birds lived and flew over North America. Britannica Kids Holiday Bundle! These birds migrated in massive colonies, and there were so many of them that they could actually the sun. The goal of de-extinction for us, quite literally is revive and restore, and so the pilot project needed to be one that would have a chance of successfully returning the species to the wild.. We hypothesized the Passenger Pigeon could be a model de-extinction project. Bob Strauss is a science writer and the author of several books, including "The Big Book of What, How and Why" and "A Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of North America.