Last Passenger Pigeon Martha Died on September 1, a Century Ago

Last Passenger Pigeon Martha Died on September 1, a Century Ago

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died hundred years ago on September 1, 1914. The species was once so abundant that it darkened the American skies for days. Almost 40% of all North American birds were passenger pigeons, but they quickly reached extinction because of incessant hunting for food and massive deforestation.

Passenger pigeons were beautiful with an hourglass neck, iridescent blue body, apple breast, and white underside. However, they were killed in massive numbers by burning sulfur pots beneath their nests. Also, destruction of the ancient oak, beech and hickory forests and tall-grass prairies contributed significantly to their decline.

Martha was taken to the Smithsonian to exhibit the centenary of extinction of the species. The passenger pigeon was likely the most abundant bird during the 18th century and their numbers ranged from three billion to five billion. The bird used to move in the search of mast, a term used for hard nut fruits produced by trees like beeches and acorns.

"They make waste whole forest in a short time, and leave a famine behind them for most other creatures, they have never been observed to return to the northern countries in the same way they came from thence, but take quite another route, suppose for their better subsistence", noted colonial historian Robert Beverly in 1722.

It is not known that when the last great auk or the last dodo died, but the demise of the last passenger pigeon is precisely known -- 1 p.m. on September 1, 1914.

When the white race started to spread in North America, the bird, without any doubt, was the most common bird on the continent.


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