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Lecture: The Echoes of their Wings: The Life and Legacy of the Passenger Pigeon

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
12:00 AM
Gates Lecture Hall, University of Michigan Biological Station, 9133 Biological Rd., Pellston, MI 49769

The passenger pigeon was unlike any other bird. It probably numbered in the billions,making it the most abundant bird in North America if not the world. 

But this huge population was neither evenly distributed across the landscape nor was it any way cryptic: the species often formed aggregations so vast they are difficult for us to imagine. As just two examples, John James Audubon described a flight that darkened the sky for three days, and a nesting in 1871 spread across 850 square miles of central Wisconsin.

Despite that abundance, a single flight around 1860 probably exceeded a billion birds and maybe three billion, exploitation for food and recreation destroyed the species in the wild by the first few years of the twentieth century. On September 1, 1914, Martha, the last of the species, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. 

This talk explores the story of the bird and highlights the important lessons that it presents to those of us in the 21st century.

Joel Greenberg has over 25 years' experience working on natural resource related issues in the Midwest. Currently a Research Associate of both the Chicago Academy of Science Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum, he has authored four books. Greenberg has JD and MA degrees from Washington University.

This lecture is free and open to the public.