The Loss of the Passenger Pigeon

Martha_last_passenger_pigeon_1914The passenger pigeon was once the most numerous bird on the planet, but their extinction was a turning point in American history.  For the first time there was no doubt as to the role of people in the extinction of a species.  However, to end the story there would be a missed opportunity to celebrate the positive outcomes that are the living legacy of Martha the last passenger pigeon today.   Once common species like white-tailed deer and wild turkey (that not accidentally are common today) were on the same path to extinction as the passenger pigeon.  The response from all levels of society was astounding.  100 years ago Americans did amazing things to save wildlife.  The question is – what are we doing today to ensure the survival of wildlife 100 years from now?  What will people 100 years from now say about our work to save wildlife today?  September 1, 2014 is our chance to honor the last passenger pigeon, Martha, and recommit ourselves to the conservation of wildlife at home and abroad. 

Timeline of Events


August 29th – 30th

Ohio Ornithological Society will hold a symposium at the Zoo themed around the passenger pigeon.

  • Friday, Aug. 29 - “Martinis with Martha” will include guest presentations and a musical performance!
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 – Learn more about the Passenger Pigeon from our great lineup of guest speakers with stories bringing a message of hope for future species and our “lessons learned”, and what you can do to help. Event Details.

August 29thSeptember 3rd

Masterworks for Nature Group has Wildlife art on display in the Frisch’s Theater themed around wildlife conservation success stories.

September 1st

Folding Martha’s Flock is an public engagement effort to recreate an origami passenger pigeon flock that will be suspended from the ceiling of the Education Center at the Zoo.

Add your pigeon to the flock! Download the foldable passenger pigeon template, print it off (double-sided, 11 X 17, full color is best) and fold it. Then send it or bring it to the Education Center at the Zoo to be hung with thousands of others before September 1.

September 1st

The newly renovated Passenger Pigeon Memorial is open for a media sneak peek at 11 a.m.  The event, to honor Martha, is to take place at the memorial and will begin with a homing pigeon release.

September 3rd

John Ruthven is to speak at the Barrows Conservation Lecture Series about Martha, the last passenger pigeon.

October 29th

The Bruggeman Center for dialogue is to hold a symposium on the issue of extinction. More information to come

December 3rd – 5th

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Symposium will be held in Cincinnati. More information to come

Special Public Engagement: The Legacy of the Passenger Pigeon and its Relevance in 2014

The widely accepted legacy assigned to the passenger pigeon is one grounded in loss and remorse.  While the loss of what was once the most abundant avian species on the planet is profound and the regret associated with this loss is reasonable, it has limited utility to people today.  It also has the danger of framing the perception of individuals so that no other possibility for this species lasting legacy can be envisioned.  Join Dan Marsh (Director of Education at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden) as he shares a more positive legacy.  One in which this extinction event is considered as a turning point in our history that led to broad and systemic wildlife and resource conservation action 100 years ago.     

More information on Passenger Pigeons and Project Passenger Pigeon can be found at