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The Passenger Pigeon in Ohio

Passenger Pigeons in Ohio, Continued

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.

Ohio places likely named for the Passenger Pigeon: 

Pigeon Knob in Gallia County

Pigeon Town in Logan County

Pigeon Run in Stark County

Pigeon Ridge in Carroll County

Pigeon Creek in Summit, Stark, Vinton, Jackson, and Gallia counties

Pigeon Branch in Washington County

Pigeon Hollow Cemetery in Lawrence County

Pigeon Point in Belmont County

Ohio highlights: 

Archaeological remains demonstrate that native Ohioans used pigeons as food for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans. 

Early explorers (Zeisberger in the 1770s, Harris 1805) often remarked on the vast gatherings of pigeons they encountered in the forests. There are records of large bald spots persisting in the forest for decades where large nesting colonies had been established.

The capital city, Columbus, was visited by a ninety-mile-long flock that passed over for most of a day in the spring of 1855; such passages remained fairly common in the state in this era, and this one was remarkable mostly for the number of human witnesses involved. 

Collectors here and to the east were surprised to find undigested rice in the stomachs of such migrants, which suggested the birds had passed through rice country in the Carolinas and Georgia just the day before, thus averaging around sixty miles per hour in their voyage. 

As late as Wheatonís time (ca. 1882), a dozen living pigeons in the city market could be purchased for as little as five cents, while a pair of Northern Cardinals cost two dollars. Kentucky and Ohio were at an early date the locales for the most spectacular recorded gatherings of pigeons, but with the hewing of the forests and increased local hunting pressure, large concentrations of pigeons were found farther north, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan after the Civil War and into the 1880s. At one time, an Ohio nest site such as the Bloody Run Swamp in Licking County could justly be called the largest in the state, while sites 300 miles northwest in Michigan were many times more extensive.

Ohio locations known to have Passenger Pigeon skins, mounts, or skeletons:

Akron: Summit County Historical Society (1)

Bay Village: Lake Erie Nature and Science Center (1)*

Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University

East Liverpool: Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center (1)*

Cincinnati: Cincinnati Museum Center (12; three mounts, one egg, the rest skins)*
                Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens*; Ed Maruska

Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1)*

Columbus:  1) Ohio State University Museum of Biological Diversity (16); 2) Ohio Historical Society (3)*

Dayton: Aulwood Audubon Center (1)*

Dayton: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery (6)*

Delaware: Ohio Wesleyan University (1)*

Huron: Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Preserve (2: one juv.)*

Indian Hill: W. Roger Fry

Norwalk: Firelands Historical Society (1)*

Oberlin: Oberlin College (1)

Oxford: Miami University Museum (1)

Portsmouth: Portsmouth Public Library (1)*

* If an asterisk appears, at least one passenger pigeon is known to be on display; this list is mainly based on Hahn's Where is That Vanished Bird (1963). Please let us know of any changes including additional locations and/or birds on display, name changes of institution, if birds are no longer present, etc.

Read Fascinating Historical Accounts of the Passenger Pigeon in Ohio

Wisconsinís A.W. [Bill] Schorger (1884-1972) spent many years researching the history of the Passenger Pigeon, and he summarized his findings in his 1955 book, The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. At the time of its publication, the book was the most comprehensive account of the species. Schorger did an excellent job summarizing the nearly 10,000 historical records he discovered in libraries and historical societies around the country, but his original research notes contain many additional details.
For the 2014 centennial, Professor Stanley Temple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has made all Schorgerís handwritten research notes available in digital form. This link will take you to a table that provides details of all the historical records Bill Schorger discovered for Ohio. [Schorger-OH.pdf]

Read Historical Accounts from Shorger's Original Field Notes about the Passenger Pigeon in Ohio

These sources are newly available on the Passenger Pigeon site (as of January 25, 2014). The links below give access to often-firsthand, eyewitness accounts of pigeons, the table includes a cross reference to the exact page in Schorgerís notes where you can read the full text of the account and find a citation of the original source document. All these historical documents are in PDF format in sizes ranging from 24mb - 60mb. These documents will open in their own window. Use the links below to find the page containing the account youíre interested in exploring further:
Schorger pages 1-329
Schorger pages 330-632
Schorger pages 633-959
Schorger pages 960-1242
Schorger pages 1243-1585
Schorger pages 1586-1890
Schorger pages 1891-2232
Schorger pages 2233-2556


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Birding Festivals

Looking for a birding festival this summer? Visit the Bird Watcher's Digest  "Festival Finder" page to have look for festivals around the country. This is a great way to get to find birds with local guides and field trips to hotspots in the area, and a fun way to get to know other birders too!


We have an exciting line-up of field trips, speakers, conferences, and other state-wide birding and educational events scheduled in 2014. Some of these are still in the planning stages, so be sure to check back often for updates. Please check our calendar page for upcoming events. We hope to see you there!

Reporting a Rare Bird Sighting

Part of the excitement of birding comes when we find something unusual, something rare or unexpected that we can relish and share with others. But telling others about your finding, in person or on the internet, is fleeting. Even more important, for the ornithological record, is documenting your record in a permanent way. Reports of rarities, when they can be authenticated and published, help to fill out the total picture of our local avifauna. As records, they can help us all to recognize habitats, regions, or seasons in which scarce species are most likely to be found.

Why Submit Documentation?

Any scientific report of an unusual phenomenon must be supported by documentation: that is, verifiable evidence reported and vouched for by a first-hand observer, submitted for peer review before acceptance and publication. In general, the rarer and more interesting the occurrence, the more important it is to document and verify it for the record.