Taxidermic Extinct Passenger Pigeon
Taxidermied by Wallace Homer, Monson, Maine
Probably the most famous story of the mass extermination of a species by humans is that of Ectopistes migratorius, known as the Passenger Pigeon. Once flourishing in North America in numbers estimated at 5 billion, early European settlers made reference to collossal flocks of the blue, long-tailed birds that were so immense that they darkened the skies. Reports describe flocks a mile wide flying overhead for four to five hours at a time during their migration from the south to their breeding areas in New England, New York, Ohio and the southern Great Lakes area. The demise of the species is linked to the development of the major east coast cities in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1855, 300,000 pigeons per year were sent to New York alone in a well-organized and sustained effort to provide cheap meat to the expanding human population. In one hunting competition no less than 30,000 birds were required to win a prize.
So extensive was the slaughter of these birds that by the late 1880s no more than a few hundred survived. By the 1890s the wild Passenger Pigeon died out. How tragic then that, within the lifetime of a human being, this species was reduced to a single individual that died 1914. And the principle cause? Hunting, season upon season, decade following decade until those remaining sporadic populations dwindled to such critical levels that recovery was impossible. Martha, the last remaining bird died in Cincinnati zoo on 1st September 1914, at 1pm, possibly the only instance to date when the precise time of the extinction of a species has been known.
While specimens of the passenger pigeon exist in American and European museums, very few are still in private collections, especially one that is in such good condition.
The present example is offered on a wood perch, with later addition of an acrylic dust cover; together with relevant books from the taxidermist's private collection including: "Birds of Maine", "Citizen Bird", "Eggs of North American Birds" and various pamphlets.