Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius)

Image of Passenger Pigeon study skins.
A cautionary tale

The Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s scientific collections include several study skins of extinct Passenger Pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). These four Passenger Pigeon specimens were collected between 1880-1890 in northern Illinois (Evanston and Waukegan).

A bird native to North America, Passenger Pigeons commonly bred in the Great Lakes Region (Evanston and Waukegan are on Lake Michigan) and migrated in enormous flocks that, observers of the time said, almost darkened skies to nighttime levels. Decades of overhunting by European immigrants and habitat loss, mainly through deforestation, are believed to be among the key elements that lead to their extinction. Populations declined rapidly from 1870 to 1890. The last known captive specimen, named Martha, died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.