icon of person Membership icon of ticket Buy Tickets

Once the most abundant bird in North America, and perhaps the world, more than five billion passenger pigeons were flying free in the early 1800s. One hundred years later, they were gone.

In addition to dwindling forest habitat, passenger pigeons were hunted relentlessly for commercial sale and sport. By the time we realized the passenger pigeon was in real trouble, it was too late. The last known wild pigeon was killed in Ohio in 1900. After that, a single captive flock existed here at the Cincinnati Zoo. Breeding attempts failed, and by 1910, a lone female named Martha remained. When Martha passed away on September 1, 1914, it was the first documented extinction of a species at the hand of man.

Did You Know?

The extinction of the passenger pigeon was a wake-up call. If we wanted to prevent the extinction of other species, we had to start managing our impact on wildlife. Thus, the conservation movement in America began.

Quick Facts