At the time of European arrival, Passenger Pigeons accounted for up to forty percent of the land birds of North America. Passenger Pigeons flew in vast flocks, numbering in the billions, sometimes eclipsing the sun from noon until nightfall. Flying sixty miles an hour, they migrated across their geographic range, which stretched from the northeastern and mid-western states and into Canada to the southern states.
In the 19th Century, as American’s urban population grew and the demand for wild meat increased, thousands of men became full-time pigeon hunters. With nesting sites holding unimaginable numbers, hunters slaughtered the birds with great efficiency.
It was inconceivable that in less than fifty years, the Passenger Pigeon would be nearly extinct. On March 24, 1900, a boy in Pike County, Ohio shot the last recorded wild Passenger Pigeon.
Fourteen years later, under the watchful eyes of her keepers, the last captive Passenger Pigeon, Martha, died in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.