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Tag: Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon Lands a Permanent Perch

The Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens presented The Lost Bird Project exhibition from March 2014 – May 2015. Housed in the Smithsonian’s gardens, it featured large-scale bronze sculpture memorials of five extinct North American birds: the Carolina parakeet, the Labrador duck, the passenger pigeon, the great auk, and the heath hen. The Lost Bird Project dedicated one bird, the passenger pigeon, to remain permanently with the Smithsonian – in front of the National Museum of Natural History – close to Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who resides in the museum.

Once There Were Billions: 100 Year Anniversary of the death Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

Martha, the last passenger pigeon.
Martha, the last passenger pigeon.

This post is written by Helen James, Curator-in-Charge, Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History. Ask Helen a question during our Twitterchat on Tuesday, September 2nd!

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, is back on public display for the first time since 1999, this time in an exhibition titled Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America that opened in the Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery of the National Museum of Natural History on June 24. Martha died on September 1, 1914, in the Cincinnati Zoo; she was immediately frozen into a 300-pound block of ice and shipped by fast train to the Smithsonian in Washington. There her body was carefully preserved as a taxidermy mount and an anatomical specimen. She had been recognized in the last years of her life as the only surviving individual of a species that was the most abundant bird in North America only decades earlier. In death, she has become one of the Smithsonian’s most treasured specimens. Martha’s story was a wake-up call for our nation regarding its unregulated harvesting of natural resources and contributed to the development of our modern conservation ethic and laws protecting wildlife.

Twitterchat on September 2nd!


Please join the Smithsonian Libraries, the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) for a twitterchat on September 2nd. The chat will take place between 2-3 pm (EST) and feature Helen James, Curator of Birds and our recent Once There Were Billions exhibit in NMNH, and Martin Kalfatovic, Program Director of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The Fall of a Mighty Empire: The Passenger Pigeon

The story of the last Passenger Pigeon and the disappearance of the Great Auk, Carolina Parakeet, and Heath Hen reveal the fragile connections between species and their environment. To help tell their story, the Smithsonian LibrariesBiodiversity Heritage Library, and the National Museum of Natural History have curated a joint exhibit entitled Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America which opened June 24 in the National Museum of Natural History. 

Two hundred years ago, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was the most abundant bird species in North America. A population numbering in the billions, as much as 40% of all land birds on the continent shared the same genome as Martha. Migrating flocks were so large that they literally blocked out the sky, stretching up to a mile wide and 300 miles long and taking 14 hours to pass a single point. Flocks were so densely packed that a single shot could bring down dozens of birds. The beat of up to 3.5 billion pairs of wings literally created its own cold front below, and those unaccustomed to the marvel feared the end of the world was upon them.

“Once There Were Billions” opening June 24th

The Smithsonian Libraries invites you to:

Echoes of Their Wings: The Passenger Pigeon and its Legacy

The exhibition opening for “Once There Were Billions”, featuring a lecture and book signing by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.

Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – 6:00pm
Location: Baird Auditorium
National Museum of Natural History
10th and Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004


Please RSVP to  or call 202-633-2241