People often look at me like I’m crazy when I say this, but I like pigeons. There’s something about their gentle way that I’ve always found incredibly calming. I’m also ceaselessly entertained by their rhythmic head bobbing as they walk.
I don’t keep pigeons, nor do I feed them in the park. And I’m not trying to convince anyone to like pigeons. I know many people find them to be dirty gutter-dwelling ‘rats with wings’ – but I like them!
So what on earth does this have to do with anything? One day when I was doing my normal routine of chasing five ideas at a time on the Internet I stumbled upon… the passenger pigeon.
The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is a now extinct bird that once roamed North America in numbers that would make a buffalo blush. Per Wikipedia: “One flock in 1866 in southern Ontario was described as being 1 mi (1.5 km) wide and 300 mi (500 km) long, took 14 hours to pass, and held in excess of 3.5 billion birds.”¹ At the time, passenger pigeons had one of the largest groups or flocks of any animal, second only to the Rocky Mountain locust.
A combination of commercial hunting, environmental changes such as deforestation, and unique breeding requirements led to their extinction just 100 years ago when the last confirmed passenger pigeon, Martha, died in Ohio. The species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century to extinction early in the 20th century.
After reading some fascinating content on the birds I was struck by three very distinct thoughts.
- I’m amazed at the very idea that billions of pigeons moved in flocks big enough to block out the sun.
- I’m astonished and ashamed that not a single one exists today
- Most of all, I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of any of this!
This site is not about the passenger pigeon, or pigeons at all. This site is about things I wish I knew about when I was younger. This could be matters of personal finance, travel, careers, culture, whatever. I hope whatever’s here will help someone who, like me, doesn’t know it all just yet. And maybe, if we’re lucky, some healthy conversations and debates will happen along the way.
P.S. Yes, I know it’s American bison and not buffalo. But growing up I heard all about the loss of the buffalo and not a word about the passenger pigeon, so I’m using that term intentionally.