Passenger Pigeon

The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is extinct. Also known as wild PIGEON, this largish, long-tailed species (family Columbidae) was once abundant, nesting in vast, densely populated colonies and migrating in flocks that, at times, darkened the sky for hours or even days.

The habit of concentrating in great numbers proved disastrous because it facilitated mass slaughter by humans. The species was gunned, netted and clubbed into oblivion. Its decline from the uncountable numbers that were one of the natural wonders of the continent became precipitous 1871-80. Because only one egg per clutch was being laid, the passenger pigeon's reproductive potential was inadequate to maintain the sadly decreased and scattered populations that remained late in the 19th century. The last known specimen taken in the wild was at Sargento, Ohio, on 24 March 1900. The last survivor died on 1 September 1914 in a zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Canada, the passenger pigeon was a summer resident, nesting from the Maritimes through southern Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, central-eastern Saskatchewan and probably parts of Alberta. It was last recorded in Canada on 18 May 1902 at Penetanguishene, Ont. Specimens were last taken in 1898 at Lake Winnipegosis, Man, and in 1899 at Scotch Lake, NB.