Mark the centennial anniversary of the tragic loss of the Passenger Pigeon June 27

By U of I Extension

The Passenger Pigeon was arguably the world’s most abundant bird, darkening the sky for hours at a time as huge flocks passed from one forest to the next.

Scientists estimate the population numbered between 1 and 5 billion, and accounted for almost 40 percent of the total number of birds in North America.

But in 1914, the last surviving Passenger Pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo, ending a calamitous half-century in which the pigeon declined from billions to none as a result of uncontrolled market hunting and the resulting disruption of nesting colonies.

The loss of this extremely abundant bird stands as the iconic extinction event in our country’s history.

On the centennial anniversary of this tragedy, University of Illinois Extension and Northwest Illinois Audubon Society invite the general public to attend “Remembering a Lost Bird: Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future,” which will be at Freeport’s Oakdale Nature Preserve Friday, June 27.

Professor Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom professor emeritus in conservation at University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior fellow at Aldo Leopold Foundation, will be the featured speaker and will recount the sobering story of the Passenger Pigeon.

Temple has been traveling the nation to share this story with as many people as possible and is happy to bring the program to Freeport.

During my lecturing tours in this centennial year, I’ve been surprised how few people know the tragic story of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction 100 years ago,” Temple said. “It’s time to reflect on that forgotten story and what it teaches us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.”

Teresa Smith of Northwest Illinois Audubon Society agrees, saying: “We are happy to be able to offer this program in Freeport in partnership with University of Illinois Extension. The program will help increase people’s awareness about how important it is to protect species now, so that future generations can enjoy the diversity that we have enjoyed.”

Remembering a Lost Bird: Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future” will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., June 27, at Oakdale Nature Preserve, 4433 S. Cranes Grove Road, Freeport, Ill. To register, visit, or call University of Illinois Extension at (815) 235-4125.

From the June 4-10, 2014, issue

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