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The Passenger Pigeon in Ohio

Passenger Pigeons in Ohio

Historian Caleb Atwater observed in 1838 that passenger pigeons still passed through Ohio in huge numbers in the spring and fall, adding that "[f]ormerly the pigeons tarried here all summer, building their nests, and rearing their young, but the country is too well settled for them now; and so, like the trapper for beaver, and the hunter, they are off into the distant forests, where their food is abundant, and where there is none to disturb them in their lawful pursuits." Actually, large nesting colonies survived in a few spots in the state after the middle of the century, even though there were growing numbers of humans who continued to persecute them. 

By 1882, Wheaton, born in 1840 and author of Report on the Birds of Ohio, observed it had become "much less abundant and irregular." Less than twenty years later its extinction in the wild was complete. Lawrence Hicks in 1935 summed up its former abundance in “immense numbers in every section of the state and presumably breeding generally, though usually locally and in very large colonies,” citing confirmed large nestings historically in rural Licking, Pickaway, Morrow, Huron, Wayne, Medina, Columbiana, Portage, Trumbull, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties. 

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
Still extant is a mounted specimen, now at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, collected in the state in 1900, thought for many years to have been the last pigeon verified in the wild.  Martha, a pigeon kept at the Cincinnati Zoo until her death in 1914, is considered to have been the last of all her kind.

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VOLUNTEER WITH US!

Volunteers are the lifeblood of this organization. If you are interested in lending your time, talents, or treasures to our Society, please send an e-mail to Jason Larson, Volunteer Chair. Tell us a little about yourself and we'll help you find a suitable match for your time and interests. You can also complete a Volunteer Registration Form online. We will get in touch with you either way!

Help OOS When you Shop on Amazon!

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support OOS every time you shop, at not cost to you. Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. How do I shop at AmazonSmile? On your first visit, you will need to select OOS as your charitable organization before you begin shopping. Amazon will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation to OOS. Go here to be directed to the OOS page and start shopping for a good cause. We thank you for supporting Ohio birds!

Pesticide Use and Grassland Bird Decline

First Bees, Now Birds
From Pesticide Action Network North America

Prairie bird populations are falling in many Midwestern states, from ring-necked pheasants to horned larks to sparrows. Scientists now say insecticides are a primary culprit.

Minnesota birds are hardest hit with 12 species in decline, followed by Wisconsin with 11, and Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and New York with nine affected species each.

The recent study looked at a range of possible causes of the population declines, including habitat loss which has long been considered a key driver of the problem.

Bird conservationists are “still concerned” about range management, urban development and loss of habitat, but are now focusing additional attention on the harmful impacts of pesticides. According to Cynthia Palmer, Manager of the Pesticides Program at American Bird Conservancy:

[This study] suggests that we also need to rein in the use of lethal pesticides in agriculture, and that we need to be especially careful about any new pesticides we introduce into these ecosystems such as the neonicotinoid insecticides.

Neonicotinoid use has increased dramatically in recent years, and as we've reported here before, many studies link this class of systemic pesticides with dramatic honey bee declines. American Bird Conservancy is expected to release a toxicological assessment of neonicotinoid impacts on birds and other organisms soon.

The current study was conducted by Dr. Pierre Mineau, a scientist recently retired from Environment Canada, along with Mélanie Whiteside of Health Canada. Using pesticide-use data from the 1980s and 1990s, the study focused on organophosphate insecticides such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos, as well as carbamates. According to Dr. Mineau:

What this study suggests is that we need to start paying a lot more attention to the use of pesticides if we want to reverse, halt or simply slow the very significant downward trend in grassland bird populations.

VIREO Bird Photos

VIREO (Visual Resources for Ornithology) is the world-wide bird photography collection of The Academy of Natural Sciences. With more than 160,000 photographs representing over 7,000 species VIREO is the world's most comprehensive collection of ornithological images, http://vireo.acnatsci.org. More than 700 photographers from around the world have contributed to VIREO. The collection contains work by some of the world's most talented bird photographers. This can be useful to help with bird ID.

Monarch Watch: Monarch Waystation Program

The Monarch Watch Waystation Program is an excellent way to help create, protect and conserve habitat for the Monarch Butterfly. As a lesson learned with Martha, the Passenger Pigeon, citizen science projects are quite valuable in playing a part in the conservation of species. YOU can make a difference right in your own backyard! 


Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch tells us that "Monarch Butterfly populations are declining due to loss of habitat. To assure a future for Monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweed needs to become a national priority". Changing farming practices, roadside mowing and spraying along our roads and highways have eliminated much of the larval source of the Monarch Caterpillar-the Milkweed. Milkweed is easy to propagate and grown, and many varieties provide a nice specimen plant in a sunny or semi-sunny location. The entire family can enjoy looking for Monarch eggs and caterpillars. For more information on Monarch biology, where to purchase milkweed, how to certify your site to become a "Monarch Waystation", visit Monarch Watch:www.monarchwatch.org.

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