Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Ectopistes migratorius
Passenger Pigeon

Passenger The Passenger Pigeon became extinct in 1914.


Distinguishing Features - Colouration: head and rump, slate blue; back, slate gray; breast, wine red; eye, scarlet. The colors of the male were brighter than those of the female. The short, slender black bill was suited to its diet of acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, various fruits, grains and insects. The Passenger Pigeon was similar to, but larger than the Mourning Dove Zenaidura macroura. There was no black spot on the side of the neck as is found in the Mourning Dove.


"Passenger Pigeon" is the common name for an extinct migratory bird belonging to the pigeon family. A native of the eastern half of North America from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, it wintered in the southern part of its range and bred in the north, from Nova Scotia west to Montana and Saskatchewan.

Possibly once the most numerous bird on earth; population estimates from the 19th century ranged from 1 billion to close to 4 billion individuals. Their flocks, a mile wide and up to 300 miles long, were so dense that they darkened the sky for hours and days as the flock passed overhead.

The first settlers to move west found the passenger pigeons an endless source of meat, fat, and feathers. In the 1850s the railroads began to extend their tracks westward; as a result, the birds could be shipped directly to city markets before they spoiled. Many persons became professional pigeon hunters. By 1880 the decrease in numbers had become irreversible. It laid only one egg so its reproductive potential was poor; the efforts made to breed passenger pigeons in captivity met with little success. The last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in 1914.

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