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100 years ago today, Martha, the last Passenger pigeon in the world died.

To mark the hundredth anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon I would like to provide some excerpts from Project Passenger Pigeon. Please visit their website and their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectPassengerPigeon to read their message and help in the fight against species extinction.

Passenger Pigeons Were Unlike Any Other Bird in the World in at Least Three Important Ways
The Passenger Pigeon was a bird solely of North America, with the vast majority inhabiting a region from the Gulf States to Hudson’s Bay, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the upper Missouri River. Three things made them unique in all the world:

  1. they were the most abundant bird of the continent, if not the world: no one knows for sure how many there were but the most careful figure offered ranges from a low of three billion to a high of five billion individuals;
  2. they aggregated in numbers that darkened the sky for as much as three days: individual flights might have exceeded two billion birds; and
  3.  in literally decades, human actions reduced this incredible bounty to zero, when on September 1, 1914, the last of the species died. Given that it is extinct, very little was known about its relationships to other birds until recently.



“Passenger Pigeon wood carving by Mike Ford, on display at Chippewa Nature Center, Midland, MI.

“No photograph of a living passenger pigeon in the wild has yet been found.”

- Photo and excerpt from: http://passengerpigeon.org/differentpigeon.html




Mission Statement of Project Passenger Pigeon

2014 marks the centenary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Numbering in the billions in 1800, the last bird died on September 1, 1914; driven to extinction by human activity.

Project Passenger Pigeon is an international effort to commemorate this anniversary and use it not only as an opportunity to familiarize people with this remarkable species, but also to raise awareness of current issues related to human-caused extinction, explore connections between humans and the natural world, and inspire people to become more involved in building a sustainable relationship with other species.


How Everyone Can Get Involved

Project Passenger Pigeon is about reaching as many people as possible in our efforts to tell the compelling story of the passenger pigeon and to present current issues related to extinction, the relationship of people to nature, and how we can proceed in a more sustainable way.

To help bring that about, the Project has created, and is in the process of creating, a wide range of scientifically and historically accurate media resources that will make it easy for organizations to participate in this effort.


It is said that pigeons live on average to be about 10-15 years old. I believe this is for captive or racing pigeons. The average feral pigeon living in the wild would most likely have a reduced lifespan since they have no one to care for them against the elements, disease and predators.

The oldest recorded pigeon (that I could find info about) was a red checker cock called Kaiser. He was born in 1917 and died in 1949 at the age of 32 ½. Kaiser was in fact a German war pigeon who was captured by the Americans in 1918 and used by them for breeding.

Kaiser, WWI Captured German War Pigeon:

  • “Kaiser” 1917-1949
  • Band # 17-47-0-350
  • Red Checker Cock
  • Bred and trained by the German Imperial Crown
  • Captured by the Americans in 1918 during the Meuse Argonne offensive
  • Assigned to the US army signal corps, Fort Monmouth, N.J and Camp Crowder, MO.
  • Handled by Col. Clifford Algy Poutre from 1936-1943
  • Kaiser lived for 32½ years
  • Specialty: outstanding breeder

This photo of Kaiser was taken in 1938, US Army Signal Corps Lofts, Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Martha – the last passenger pigeon:

The second oldest pigeon was Martha, the last passenger pigeon. She hatched in a zoo in 1885 and died in 1914, aged 29. The sad and poignant story of the now extinct passanger pigeon species can be read here: In Memory of Martha

A live passenger pigeon in 1898 (Note: I don't know if this is Martha)


By Wilson P. Dizard
Published in The New York Times, February 24, 1946

Technically, Kaiser could be called a traitor to the Imperial Crown of Germany. A soldier of fortune, he has served under two flags in two international wars. This may seem surprising when one considers that Kaiser is 29 years old and that his kind has always been regarded as a symbol of peace. But Kaiser carries no olive branch in his bill-he’s a Regular Army Flier, assigned to the United States Signal Corps, and the oldest pigeon known to history.

Kaiser was hatched in Germany in February, 1917, and was trained as a military homing pigeon for the German Army. The famous bird was captured when the Yanks stormed an enemy front-line trench during the Meuse offensive in 1918. He was brought to this country and assigned to the Signal Corps Pigeon Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., until August, 1942, at which time he was transferred to Camp Crowder, Mo., the Army’s pigeon-breeding center.

In terms of human ages, Kaiser is a cool 140 years old-the normal life span of a pigeon being from 5 to 8 years. Despite his advanced age, Kaiser has continued to father large groups of homing pigeons. He astounded his keepers and pigeon breeders all over the country last year by fathering seven youngsters. The breeders shook their heads and said that because of Kaiser’s age his youngsters would be useless as military homing pigeons. They took it all back when one of them, Little Caesar, won a 320-mile race from Dallas to Camp Crowder in competition with some of the best birds in the Army.

There is no logical explanation for the Kaiser’s hardiness except for the fact that he lives under ideal conditions at the Crowder lofts. He and the latest of his many mates, Lady Belle, live alone in a white loft away from the other loft buildings. The only difference between their loft and those of the other pigeons is that Kaiser and Lady Belle have an electric heater-a small concession to Kaiser’s old age.

Although a “member” of the United States Army, Kaiser still wears a seamless aluminum identification band on his left leg, bearing the seal of the German Imperial Crown. This band was placed there by his German keepers when he was a week old, and it cannot be removed unless cut from the leg.

(From: http://pigeonsincombat.com/thepigeoneerswebpage.html)

Did you know that the Dodo was a close relative of modern pigeons? I didn’t.

I guess the two most famous extinct birds in the world are the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon. Reading about their extinction is interesting but also greatly upseting. Not just because of what happened to these birds but because it is still happening to other species around the world.

The Mauritius Pink Pigeon was on the brink of extinction with only 10 left in the wild by 1991, however, with the conservation efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust there are now about 350 Pink Pigeons living in the wild in Mauritius. Read more at: http://www.durrell.org/Animals/Birds/Mauritius-Pink-Pigeon/

It will be a great shame to loose any more pigeons species. There are so many wonderful different pigeons out there and here’s some photos of them: http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/Sampler3-PigeonsDoves.htm

To read up on the Passenger Pigeon go to these websites:

For the Dodo: