Beloit to mark 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction

Staff Report

BELOIT, Wisconsin — A little more than a century ago, 3 to 5 billion passenger pigeons lived in North America. Moving in flocks of hundreds of millions at estimated speeds of 60 miles per hour, the birds would entirely block out the sun for hours at a time. But 100 hundred years ago, the pigeons became extinct because of overhunting and habitat loss. The last one, a pigeon named Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo Sept. 1, 1914.

This fall, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their disappearance, Beloit College and a group of community partners are hosting the Environment, Extinction and History 2014 Richardson Lecture Series, a flyover simulation, and a museum exhibit.

A complete listing of events follows:

• Open now-December — “A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon”: This exhibit includes posters from Project Passenger Pigeon, a national effort, with additional panels created by Beloit students, which localize the exhibit and expand it to include contemporary species imperiled by human activities. The Logan Museum of Anthropology’s pair of stuffed passenger pigeons, donated to Beloit in the late 19th century, is also featured in the exhibit. The exhibit is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, in Logan Museum of Anthropology’s Shaw Gallery.

• Monday, Sept. 8 — “The Prehistory of ‘The Feathered Tempest:’ Passenger Pigeon Zooarchaeology in the Upper Midwest”: Zooarchaeologist Steven Kuehn, from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey’s Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will discuss the role passenger pigeons played during the Prehistoric period in eastern North America. Event begins at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Sciences, Room 150. The event is co-sponsored by Three Rivers Archeological Society and Beloit’s Anthropology Department.

• Wednesday, Sept. 10 — “The Passenger Pigeon’s Extinction: Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future”: Stanley Temple, the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will recount the sobering story of the passenger pigeon and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species. Temple is also a senior fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Event begins at 7 p.m. in the Center for Sciences, Room 150.

• Wednesday, Sept. 17 — “De-Industrialization and the Creation of Junkyard Economies in Urban America”: Andrew Hurley, a history professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will explore the transformation of manufacturing suburbs as they adapted and expanded a robust infrastructure for moving and transforming materials to accommodate burgeoning volumes of post-consumer garbage and scrap. Event is at 7 p.m. in Morse-Ingersoll Hall’s Richardson Auditorium.

• Wednesday, Sept. 24 — “Hope is the Thing with Feathers: Americans and Three Birds”: Joel Greenberg, a research associate at the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum of Chicago, will look at three birds (the passenger pigeon, the Kirtland’s warble and the whooping crane), each representing a different outcome at the hands of people. Event is at 7 p.m. in Morse-Ingersoll Hall’s Richardson Auditorium.

• Saturday, Sept. 27 — “#GhostFlock: The Flyover”: People can witness a passenger pigeon flyover with this computer-generated film projected onto the exterior of the FatWallet building in downtown Beloit, Wisconsin. A series of related readings and live performances will also take place. Event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. in Gantry Park in downtown Beloit. Co-sponsored by Bushel & Peck’s, the Downtown Beloit Association, the Kohler Community Engagement Fund, and the Beloit College Pathways to Sustainability Leadership Program.

• Wednesday, Oct. 22 — From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction film screening and discussion with filmmaker David Mrazek: This new documentary reveals the compelling story of the unlikely extinction of the passenger pigeon and explores the pigeon’s striking relevance to conservation issues today. Event is at 7 p.m. in Morse-Ingersoll Hall’s Richardson Auditorium.

For more information, visit and follow it on Twitter and Instagram at #GhostFlock.

Posted Sept. 3, 2014

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