Remembering the Passenger Pigeon

On 1 September 1914, between midday and 1 pm, in the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, a pigeon breathed her last, and with her died her species.
– Mark Avery, A Message from Martha

And thus, the Passenger Pigeon became extinct 100 years ago. You’re probably already aware of this, as much has been made of this centenary (it was even in the New York Times!). But this is one thing that we should make a big deal about, and things such as Project Passenger Pigeon are doing just that. But I want to focus on (what else?) some books. To mark this anniversary, no fewer than three books about the Passenger Pigeon will be published this year. I would strongly urge everyone to read one or more of these books. The story of the pigeon’s extinction is not only interesting in and of itself, but it holds many lessons that we dare not forget.

  • A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to ExtinctionA Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction
    by Joel Greenberg

    Greenberg traces the history of the pigeon through those that encountered this amazing bird. Intriguingly, he also looks into their ecological role and postulates how the landscape of eastern North America would be different today if the pigeon had survived.
    For a more detailed look at this book, check out Rick Wright’s review for the American Birding Association.

  • A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance TodayA Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today
    by Mark Avery

    Avery frames the pigeon’s story around a trip he made to visit the bird’s former haunts. “With an element of travelogue as well as historical detective work”, he weaves in a broader view of what was happening in America at the time. But even more importantly, he doesn’t dwell exclusively in the past, but uses the pigeon to show how we can have a more sustainable future.
    Here’s a review of this book at The Well-read Naturalist.

  • The Passenger PigeonThe Passenger Pigeon
    by Errol Fuller

    Not intended to be a detailed monograph of the pigeon, Fuller’s book is instead both a celebration and memorial of this important bird. Unlike the previous two books, this one is richly illustrated with many artists’ renderings of the Passenger Pigeon and photos of live birds.

Update: And here are a few more: Pilgrims of the Air, One Came Home (a young-adult novel), and The Lost Bird Project. Thanks, Ted, for bringing attention to these.

Posted by Grant McCreary on September 3rd, 2014.

Category: Features

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  • Ted Floyd says:

    Thanks for this great website. On a note of, er, bookkeeping, I would point out that considerably more than three Passenger Pigeon books have hit the shelves in 2014. See discussion at the ABA’s group page on Facebook.

  • Grant McCreary says:

    Thanks, Ted. I had seen that discussion, which included several I hadn’t been aware of. I’ve added some of those mentioned here.