Monday, May 26, 2008

The morbid tale of the passenger pigeon

this was something I was saving for a project I'm working on, but it sort of mutated another way and I'm still stuck here thinking about the extinct bird.

Over the course of the 19th century, the passenger pigeon went from being the most abundant bird in North America to extinction. They were mostly sold as food (slaves and poor people didn't eat many other kinds of meat at the time). They were reported as having blackened the sky with their migrating numbers, and their populations made them easy game for killing:

One method of killing was to blind a single bird by sewing its eyes shut using a needle and thread. This bird's feet would be attached to a circular stool at the end of a stick that could be raised five or six feet in the air, then dropped back to the ground. As the bird attempted to land, it would flutter its wings, thus attracting the attention of other birds flying overhead. When the flock landed near this decoy bird, nets would trap the birds and the hunters would crush their heads between their thumb and forefinger. This has been claimed as the origin of the term stool pigeon, though this etymology is disputed.

One of the last large nestings of passenger pigeons was at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Here 50,000 birds were killed each day and the hunt continued for nearly five months. When the adult birds that survived the slaughter attempted second nestings at new sites, they were located by the professional hunters and killed before they had a chance to raise any young. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by American sportsmen knowing that it was the last flock of that size.

I should point out that the passenger pigeon looked frighteningly similar to the mourning dove, which might be my most hated of birds. and granted, I'm sure that the passenger pigeon wasn't exactly the smartest of birds, but still. That shit there is just cold.

more info on the passenger pigeon here and here.

Yeah. Sorry, I know it's not exactly day-brightening news, but I figure it'd be nice to post something, and aside from my completely inappropriate story of how I first heard the Velvet Underground, this was the only thing I had handy.

Overheard in Philly is always a great source of entertainment, or at least distraction. But this cracked me up in middle of the night last night. It was honestly the hardest I'd laughed since who knows when. So I thought I'd share it with you. Maybe that'll help wipe the thought of billions of squished pigeons from your mind. or hey, maybe that's a good thing in your mind, I don't know. I'm not the mind police.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I liked your post. So sad what we humans have done to nature in the qwest for civilization. I just saw some taxidermied Passenger Pigeons at the Denver Museum of Natural History. Also the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.