Friday, August 1, 2014

Passenger Pigeon Symposium: August 29-30

A quartet of extinct birds (L to R): Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Eskimo Curlew. You, I, nor anyone else will ever get to see one of these species - they're gone, for good.

The pigeon was once an overwhelmingly abundant bird in Ohio, and elsewhere in its range. The Carolina Parakeet was at least locally common in Ohio; the last wild flock here was seen in 1862 in Columbus. The last living specimen died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. Ivory-billed Woodpeckers probably did not occur as far north as Ohio (even though it is on most checklists for the state, based on archaeological evidence); it probably blinked out in the mid 1900's. Evidence suggests that Eskimo Curlews regularly migrated through Ohio, at least in small numbers. Market hunting did this species in, and there have been only few and scattered reports since the 1960's. Hope still flickers, very faintly, that the curlew may still survive.

Photo: Wikipedia

This is Martha, the last surviving Passenger Pigeon. She died on September 1, 1914, in the same Cincinnati Zoo that housed the last Carolina Parakeet. This year is the centennial of her passing, and the extinction of a species that once numbered in the billions. Some believe that the Passenger Pigeon population outnumbered all other bird species in North America, combined. Had you witnessed the flocks of two hundred years ago, neither you nor any of your comrades would have ever predicted the pigeon's extinction.

On August 29-30, the Ohio Ornithological Society and the Cincinnati Zoo are hosting a Passenger Pigeon Symposium at the zoo. The keynote speaker is Joel Greenberg, whose excellent book A Feathered River Across the Sky came out earlier this year. This book is the best work on the story of the pigeon ever done. Other speakers include legendary wildlife artist John Ruthven, the Cincinnati Zoo's Dan Marsh and Brian Jorg, and I will give a program about the possible relationships that existed between the Passenger Pigeon and Cerulean Warbler.

There will be birding trips to nearby Fernald Nature Preserve, nocturnal forays including mothing, and the Friday night shindig will even include music by the Rain Crows!

You won't want to miss it. All of the details, including registration information, are RIGHT HERE.

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