Here’s an excerpt from my latest For the Birds column, which will be in print in The Hour tomorrow. Full story is available online now, click on link below.
Joel Greenberg says the story of the Passenger Pigeon is unique in three ways: the species’ sheer abundance; its vast flocks; and its rapid descent to extinction.
To expand on that a bit: The Passenger Pigeon likely numbered in the billions in the mid 1800s. Its flocks were so monumentally large that naturalist John James Audubon wrote that a single flock darkened the sun for three days. Finally, the species went from billions of individual birds to zero in matter of about 40 years.
Greenberg is the author of “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,” which was published in January by Bloomsbury USA. He is also working on an accompanying documentary entitled “From Billions to None.”
Species in peril today are protected by various laws and, for the most part, have the human race rooting for them to survive. That was not the case with the Passenger Pigeon.
“Hunters, instead of saying ‘let’s lay off a bit,’ took the other attitude,” Greenberg said. “They said ‘this bird is disappearing so I’m going to kill as many as I can before they are gone.’ There were a handful of individuals expressing concern, but not many.”
But, Greenberg points out, …