She was believed to be the last living individual of her species after two male companions had died in the same zoo in 1910. Not only did deforestation deprive passenger pigeons of their accustomed nesting grounds, but when these birds ate the crops planted on cleared land, they were often mowed down by angry farmers. She died in the early afternoon of September 1, 1914.  Several years before her death Martha suffered an apoplectic stroke, leaving her weakened; the zoo built a lower roost for her as she could no longer reach her old one. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. Equally (or even more) important was the destruction of North American forests to make room for American settlers bent on Manifest Destiny. To date, though, no one has taken on this challenging task. The birds swept overhead from one edge of the sky to the other. It’s more than hunger, isn’t it, that wants us to bring down what flies. The Last Days of the Passenger Pigeon, 100 Years Ago It took only a century for the passenger pigeon to go from North America’s most abundant bird species to extinction.  The generally accepted version is that, by the turn of the 20th century, the last known group of passenger pigeons was kept by Professor Charles Otis Whitman at the University of Chicago. 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When George died in 1910, Martha was the sole survivor.  Her body was found lifeless on her cage's floor. Martha, in your little shoe box, At the precise moment when the last passenger pigeon died from an apoplectic stroke, a species vanished from the earth. The bird, also known as the wild pigeon, was once widely eaten throughout North America. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). 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. and this one, well, we can’t shoot our way All Rights Reserved. Audubon—pioneer, frontier merchant, peerless bird artist and the creator of The Birds of America— stopped to witness one of the greatest natural spectacles ever seen. The male had a pinkish body and blue-gray head. Some scientists are seeking to bring the species back to life and eventually reintroduce it into the wild through a high-tech process known as “de-extinction,” but as of now the passenger pigeon remains grounded. It took only a century for the passenger pigeon to go from North America’s most abundant bird species to extinction. The history of the Cincinnati Zoo's passenger pigeons has been described by Arlie William Schorger in his monograph on the species as "hopelessly confused," and he also said that it is "difficult to find a more garbled history" than that of Martha. The pigeon sometimes foraged in newly planted grainfields but otherwise did little damage to crops. Martha never lived in the wild. Rampant overhunting and the destruction of natural habitats were to blame. Martha (c. 1885 – September 1, 1914) was the last known living passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius); she was named "Martha" in honor of the first First Lady Martha Washington. like our opposable thumbs. Like the magician pulling pigeons out of his top hat, I’d like to bring you back, again dear bird, to fly and multiply in our world. out of this one. The last passenger pigeon on Earth died just more than 100 years ago. If you're a fan of crime movies, you may have wondered about the origin of the phrase "stool pigeon." Only a century after that flock passed through Kentucky like a hurricane, the last passenger pigeon died in a drab cage at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens. By the time the public realized there was a problem, it was already too late.
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