Why did our Wild Pigeon disappear? The Passenger Pigeon was the one species that could refute the adage: In Union there is Strength! Union for the Passenger Pigeon was fatal!
The disappearance and ultimate extinction of the Passenger Pigeons will probably always contain an element of mystery. Indeed if we read the accounts and descriptions of the unbelievable sights of Pigeon migration, and their huge nesting colonies covering tremendous areas, we must wonder ourselves just how could it have happened. How could every single Passenger Pigeon have died? How could the most plentiful bird species that man will ever witness, come to an end?
There were many theories as to why the Passenger Pigeon completely disappeared and all but one can be discounted as untrue. The multi-millions of Passenger Pigeons in North American gave man the impression that it was an inexhaustible natural resource. The best rational for the Pigeon's demise, can be found the the writings of Margaret Mitchell, in The Passenger Pigeon in Ontario.
While there were many factors that played a role in the fate of the Passenger Pigeon, there is no doubt that man played the pivotal role which ultimately brought the bird to extinction.
....For each species (bird or other animal) there is an optimum number, a density for the population to thrive at its best, both a maximum population and just as important, a minimal population. It's easy to see how there can be a maximum population for any organism. Their natural environment can only support a certain number. Beyond that number the population suffers, there are losses through natural means that the number returns to what can be sustained by nature. However, a minimum number can be just as critical to a species, a number that below which, there is an insufficient population to sustain the species and it cannot survive.
....It is now generally accepted that the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was due to the loss of their numbers below the minimum at which the species could exist. No one has yet given a satisfactory explanation, except that a psychological effect appears to be involved. The Passenger Pigeon. it seems was a bird used to living in the "grand manner" who's way of life was so upset and reduced that it could not carry on under such circumstances. Such is not the case with all species as some species are capable of responding to favorable conditions and become numerous again. Apparently the Passenger Pigeon lacked this adaptability. There is no doubt in the author's mind that this upsetting of the balance of life (of the pigeon) was the final factor contributing to its extinction....
The pigeons were subjected to shooting on the widest and most devastating scale. They were never free from persecution at any time of the year. The were hunted in spring at the beginning of nesting which was most disastrous, where the fat squabs were always considered a delicacy, later young birds in summer were much sought after, and finally adults were taken at all times. The pigeon had no peace.
Wrote one visiting french naturalist as early as 1850, "...This variety of game [passenger pigeon] in America is threatened with destruction. Everything leads to the belief that the pigeons, which cannot endure isolation, will eventually disappear from this continent. And if the world endures a century longer, I will wager that the amateur of ornithology will find no pigeons except in select museums of Natural History." How unfortunate for us all that his words became truth.
Read a Newspaper article about the 100 year anniversery of the last Passenger Pigeon ever in the wild!
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