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Full text of "The passenger pigeon"








FOR THE PEOPLE 
FOR EDVCATION 
FORSCIENCE I 






LIBRARY 

OF 

THE AMERICAN MUSEUM 

OF 

NATURAL HISTORY 





The Passenger Pigeon 




r/j ^ o <* 



PASSENGER PIGEON {^Colu?nha Migratoria) 

Upper bird, male ; lower, female 



1 HE 4^ 

Passenger Pigeon 



BY 



W. B. MERSHON 




NEW YORK 
THE OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY 

1907 



Copyright, 1907, by 
W B MERSHON 



THE OUTING PRESS 
DEPOSIT, N. V. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

Introduction ....... ix 

I My Boyhood Among the Pigeons . . . i 

II The Passenger Pigeon ..... 9 

From "American Ornithology," by Alexander IVilson 

III The Passenger Pigeon ..... 25 

From "Ornithological Biography," by John James Audubon 

IV As James Fenimore Cooper Saw It . . -41 

V The Wild Pigeon of North America . . 48 

By Chief Pokagon, in " The Chautauquan" 

VI The Passenger Pigeon ..... 60 

From " Life Histories of North American Birds," by 
Charles Bendire 

VII Netting the Pigeons ...... 74 

By William Brewster, in "The Auk " 

VIII Efforts to Check the Slaughter ... 77 
By Prof. H. B. Roney 

IX The Pigeon Butcher's Defense ... 93 

By E. T. Martin, in "American Field" 

X Notes of a Vanished Industry .... 105 

XI Recollections of "Old Timers" . . .119 

XII The Last of the Pigeons ..... 141 

XI n What Became of the Wild Pigeon? . . 163 

By Sullivan Cook, in " Forest and Stream " 

V 



vi Contents 



CHAPTER PAGE 

XIV A Novel Theory of Extinction . . . 173 

By C. H. Ames and Robert Ridgway 

XV News from John Burroughs . . . . 179 

XVI The Pigeon in Manitoba . . . , . 186 
By George E. Atkinson 

XVII The Passenger Pigeon in Confinement . . 200 

By Ruthven Deane, in "The Auk*' 

XVIII Nesting Habits of the Passenger Pigeon . 209 

By Dr. Morris Gihbs, in " The Oblogist " 



XIX Miscellaneous Notes 



217 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



The Passenger Pigeon . 

By Louis Agassi^ Fuertes 

Audubon Plate (color) 

Passenger Pigeon and Mourning Dove 

Fac-simile of "Among the Pigeons" 

H. T. Phillip's Store 

Band-tailed Pigeon {color 

Comparative Size of Pigeon and Dove 

Young Passenger Pigeon 

Pigeon Net 



Frontispiece 



FACING 
PAGE 



92 

156 
198 
218 



INTRODUCTION 

FOR the last three years I have spent most of my 
leisure time in collecting as much material as 
possible which might help to throw light on the 
oft-repeated query, "What has become of the wild 
pigeons?" The result of this labor of love is scarcely 
more than a compilation, and I am under many obliga- 
tions to those who have so cheerfully assisted me. I 
have given them credit by name in connection with their 
various contributions, but I wish that I might have 
been able to give them the more finished and literary set- 
ting that would have been within the reach of a trained 
writer or scientist. I am merely a business man who is 
interested in the Passenger Pigeon because he loves the 
outdoors and its wild things, and sincerely regrets the 
cruel extinction of one of the most interesting natural 
phenomena of his own country. If I have been able to 
make a compilation that otherwise would not have been 
available for the interested reader, I need make no 
further apologies for the imperfect manner of my treat- 
ment of this subject. 

It is hard for us of an older generation to realize that 
as recently as 1880 the Passenger Pigeon was thronging 
in countless millions through large areas of the Middle 
West, and that in our boyhood we could find no exag- 



X Introduction 



geratlon in the records of such earlier observers as 
Alexander Wilson, the ornithologist, who said that 
these birds associated in such prodigious numbers as 
almost to surpass behef, and that their numbers had no 
parallel among any other feathered tribes on the face 
of the earth; or that one of their "roosts" would kill 
the trees over thousands of acres as completely as if 
the whole forest had been girdled with an ax. 

Audubon estimated that an average flock of these 
pigeons contained a billion and a quarter of birds, which 
consumed more than eight and a half million bushels of 
mast in a day's feeding. They were slain by millions 
during the middle of the last century, and from one 
region in Michigan in one year three million Passenger 
Pigeons were killed for market, while in that roost alone 
as many more perished because of the barbarous 
methods of hunting them. They supplied a means of 
living for thousands of hunters, who devastated their 
flocks with nets and guns, and even with fire. Yet so 
vast were their numbers that after thirty years of 
observation Audubon was able to say that "even in the 
face of such dreadful havoc nothing but the diminu- 
tion of our forests can accomplish their decrease." 

Many theories have been advanced to account for the 
disappearance of the wild pigeons, among them that 
their migration may have been overwhelmed by some 
cyclonic disturbance of the atmosphere which destroyed 
their myriads at one blow. The big "nesting" of 1878 



Introduction xi 



in Michigan was undoubtedly the last large migration, 
but the pigeons continued to nest infrequently in Michi- 
gan and the North for several years after that, and 
until as late as 1886 they were trapped for market or 
for trap-shooting. Therefore the pigeons did not 
become extinct in a day; nor did one tremendous catas- 
trophe wipe them from the face of the earth. They 
gradually became fewer and existed for twenty years 
or more after the date set as that of the final extermi- 
nation. 

At one time the wild pigeons covered the entire north 
from the Gaspe Peninsula to the Red River of the 
North. Separate nestings and flights were of regular 
yearly occurrence over this vast eastern and northern 
expanse. Gradually civilization, molestation and war- 
fare drove them from the Atlantic seaboard west, until 
Michigan was their last grand rendezvous, in which 
region their mighty hosts congregated for the final 
grand nesting in 1878. As late as 1845 they were quite 
numerous on the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, but dis- 
appeared from there about that time. 

The habits of the birds were such that they could 
not thrive singly nor in small bodies, but were dependent 
upon one another, and vast communities were necessary 
to their very existence, while an enormous quantity of 
food was necessary for their sustenance. The cutting 
off of the forests and food supply interfered with their 
plan of existence and drove them into new localities, 



xii Introduction 

and the ever increasing slaughter could not help but 
lessen their once vast numbers. 

The Passenger Pigeon laid only one egg in its nest, 
rarely two, and although it bred three or four times a 
year it could not replenish the numbers slaughtered by 
the professional netters. Undoubtedly millions of the 
birds perished at various periods along the Great Lakes 
country, becoming confused in foggy weather and drop- 
ping from exhaustion into the water, while snow and 
sleet storms at times caused great mortality among the 
young birds, and even among the old ones, which often 
arrived in the North before winter had passed. 

The history of the buffalo is repeated in that of the 
wild pigeon, the extermination of which was inspired 
by the same motive: the greed of man and the pursuit 
of the almighty dollar. We lock the barn door after 
the horse is stolen. Our white pine forests and timber 
lands in general have been wantonly destroyed with no 
thought for the future. The American people are 
wasteful. They are just beginning to learn the need of 
economy in the use of that which Nature has flung at 
their feet. When one recalls the destruction of that 
noble animal, the buffalo, frequently for nothing else 
than so-called sport, or the removal of a robe; when 
one thinks of the burning of forest trees which took 
centuries to grow, merely to clear a piece of land to 
raise crops, it is not to be wondered at that the wild 
pigeon, insignificant, and not even classed as a game 
bird, so soon became extinct. 



The Passenger Pigeon 



CHAPTER I 

My Boyhood Among the Pigeons 

MY boyhood was made active and wholesome 
by a love for outdoor pastimes that had been 
bred In me by generations of sport-loving 
ancestors. From which side of the genealogical tree 
this ardor for field and forest and open sky had come 
with stronger Influence I cannot say. While my father 
was the one to use the fowllng-plece and cast the fly 
for the glorious speckled trout, my mother was a willing 
conspirator, for It was she who packed the lunch basket, 
often called us for the start In the gray morning, and 
went along to "hold the horse" while we shot pigeons. 
And when we were bent on a day In the woods In bracing 
October weather she drove old Dolly sedately along the 
winding trail, while I hunted one side of the woods and 
father hunted the other. On such days we were after 
partridges, of course, ruffed grouse, the king of all 
game birds. Often mother marked them down and 
told us just where they had crossed the road, or whether 
the bird was hit, for the cloud of smoke from the 
old black powder made seeing guesswork on our part. 
She loved the dogs, too, those good old friends and 
workers, Sport, Bob, and Ranger. 



The Passenger Pigeon 



I remember calling my mother to a window early one 
morning and shouting: "See there! a flock of pigeons! 
Ah, ha! April fool!" This time I did not deceive her 
with the threadbare trick. The joke was "on me" for 
once. There was a flight of pigeons that morning, the 
first one of the season, and behind the foremost flock 
another and another came streaming. Away from the 
east side of the river at the north of the town, from near 
Crow Island, they swept like a cloud. Crossing the 
river to the west they reached the woods near Jerome's 
mill and skirted the clearings or passed in waves over 
the tree tops, back of John Winter's farm, and then 
wheeled to the south. Out of the tongue of woodland, 
just back of the Hermansau Church, they poured, thence 
over the fields, too high to be shot, and then away to the 
evergreens and stately pines of Pine Hill; on, on, on 
across the Tittabawassee, to some feeding ground we 
knew not how far away. 

Now that the pigeons had come they would "fly" 
every morning. This we knew from years of observa- 
tion in the great migration belt of Michigan. They 
would fly lower to-morrow morning, and in a day or two 
more sweep low enough for the sixteen-gauge and the 
number eight shot to reach them. Sometimes, even now, 
forty years after the last of the great passenger pigeon 
flights, I fall to day-dreaming and seem to hear myself 
saying in the eager, piping tones of those golden boy- 
hood days: 



My Boyhood Among the Pigeons 3 

"Mother, I am going for pigeons to-morrow morn- 
ing! Do call me if I oversleep. I must be awake by 
four o'clock. We'll have pigeon pot-pie to-morrow. 
I'm going to bed early so as to be sure to be up by day- 
break. Old Sport is going along to 'fetch' dead birds." 

"Hello, dad," cries a voice in my ear, "what are you 
up to? What are you hustling around so for with your 
old shot pouch and powder-flask? There's nothing to 
shoot this time of the year." 

The spell is broken ; my own boy fetches his daddy out 
of his dream, and I am fairly caught in the act of 
making an old fool of myself. My youngsters are 
counting the days before May first when I have 
promised to take them trout-fishing, and the smallest 
boy found his first gun in his stocking last Christmas. 
But they can know nothing at all about the joys and 
excitement of pigeon shooting in the vanished days 
when these birds fairly darkened the sky above our old 
homestead. But I try to tell them what we used to do 
and my story sounds something like this: 

"It is early in the spring, so early that a bunch of 
snow may yet be found on the north side of the largest 
of the fallen trees in the woods. Puddles that the melt- 
ing snow left in the hollows of the clearing are fringed 
with ice this morning, and we look around and tell each 
other, 'There was a frost last night.' The mud in the 
road has stiffened, and the rutted cattle tracks are also 
streaked and barred with ice. Yet winter has gone and 



The Passenger Pigeon 



spring is here, for the buds are swelling on the twigs of 
the elms and the pussy willows show their dainty, silvery 
signals to tell us that the vernal equinox has come and 
gone. 

"If the springtime is still young, so is the day. Light 
is breaking in the gray sky of dawn as we hurry along 
the slippery, sticky road. We must make haste to the 
point of woods, by John Winter's clearing, before full 
daybreak or the pigeons will be flying and we will miss 
the early flocks which always keep nearest the ground. 

"You may be curious to know what we look like as 
we trudge along in Indian file, eagerly chatting about 
a kind of sport which this later generation knows noth- 
ing about. I am a chunk of a country lad, topped by a 
woolen cap with ear-tabs pulled down over my ears, a 
tippet around my neck, yarn mittens on my hands, which 
are sure to be badly skinned and chapped this time of 
year from playing 'knuckle-down-tight.' 

"My 'every-day pants' are tucked into a pair of calf- 
skin boots with square pieces of red leather for the tops, 
an old-fashioned adornment dear to Young America of 
my day. My old Irish water spaniel 'Sport' is tagging 
behind or charging frantically ahead; my gun is a six- 
teen-gauge muzzle loader, stub and twist barrels, with 
dogs' heads for the hammers. 

"Dangling from one shoulder is a leather shot pouch 
that cuts off one ounce of number eights for a load. 
The sides of this pouch are embossed, on the one a 



My Boyhood Among the Pigeons 5 

group of English woodcock, on the other a setter ram- 
pant. Hanging at my left side by a green cord with a 
tassel or two is my fluted copper powder flask, ready 
to measure out two and three-fourths drams of coarse 
Dupont or Curtis & Harvey powder. 

"My pockets are full of Ely's black-edged wads, for 
I am a young nabob of sportsmen, let me tell you, and 
I scorn to use tow or bits of newspaper for wadding. 
My vest pocket holds the caps, G. D.'s or Ely's again, 
for didn't I tell you that I was a nabob. The piece de 
resistance of this outfit is the game bag, the pride of my 
eye, for It was a Christmas present, and this is its maiden 
shooting trip. Suspended over the left shoulder so that 
It will hang well back of the right hip, the strap that car- 
ries It Is broad and with many holes for the wondrous 
buckle which can be shifted to hang It In the most com- 
fortable place, wherever that is, for when It Is loaded 
with game It will choke me almost to death, no matter 
how I adjust it. This noble bag has two pockets, one 
of them for luncheon, and on the outside Is a netted 
pocket, easy to get into and keeping the birds cool. I 
nearly forgot to mention Its magnificent fringe, which 
hangs down from both sides and the bottom like the 
war-bags of an Indian chief. 

"My companions are rigged out in much the same 
fashion. They are grown men, however, for I don't 
remember any other boys who shot pigeons with me. 
Holabird or khaki hunting suits are as yet unknown, and 



The Passenger Pigeon 



even corduroy coats are rare. The powder horn is seen 
as often as the copper flask, and one hunter has a shot 
belt with two compartments instead of the EngHsh 
pouch. Of guns the assortment is as varied as the num- 
ber of hunters, but the old, hard-kicking army musket 
with its iron ramrod is more popular than any other arm. 

"We reach the edge of the clearing not a minute too 
soon. Now and then a distant shot tells us that we are 
not the first hunters out afield this morning. The guns 
are cracking everywhere along the road that skirts the 
woodland, and back in, close to the 'chopping,' some 
better wing-shots are posted by the openings into the 
woods where the birds fly lower, but where the shooting 
is more difficult. It is largely of the 'pick your bird' 
style, for the flight of a pigeon is very swift, and when 
they are darting among the tree-tops of a small forest 
opening, rare skill is required to bag one's birds. 

"I prefer to take the flocks, even though they offer 
me more distant targets, and soon my gun-barrels are 
as hot as those of the rest of the skirmishers. Some- 
times two or three birds drop from a flock at a single 
discharge, and then several shots may not fetch from 
on high more than one or two of the long tail-feathers 
spinning and twisting to the ground. It Is fascinating 
to watch the whirling, shining descent of one of these 
feathers, and I pick up one and stick it in my cap as a 
matter of habit. 

"This kind of pigeon shooting takes a good gun and 



My Boyhood Among the Pigeons 7 

ammunition to kill a big bag as we bang away at long 
range at the birds on their way to the morning feeding- 
ground. The flight is over by half-past six o'clock and 
I am home by seven o'clock ready for breakfast and 
then to scamper off to school. 

"The pigeons in this particular locality have followed 
the same routine as long as I have known them. They 
only fly in the morning, always going in the same direc- 
tion, and I can't recall seeing them coming back again, 
or flying later in the day. This habit holds until the 
young squabs are In the nests in June, after which we are 
likely to find pigeons almost anywhere, for their feeding 
grounds become scattered and local. 

"One thing that annoys me In these brave days of 
youth and sport is the poacher, the low-down fellow who 
steals my birds. I am reckoned a pretty good shot, and 
I have a first-rate gun, but I am only a boy, so the pigeon 
thief thinks I am fair picking, and he saves his ammuni- 
tion by claiming every bird that drops anywhere near 
him. 

"Another smart dodge of his Is to fire Into a flock 
ahead or behind the one I am shooting at and then claim 
whatever birds fall as the quarry of both our guns. If 
he is not too big I try to lick him, but generally I have to 
submit to the rascality unless I can persuade a grown-up 
friend to take my part. Sometimes these villains hang 
around my shooting ground without any guns at all, 
and pick up as many birds as I do. Then I hunt around 



8 The Passenger Pigeon 

for a father or an uncle to reinforce my protests and 
there is a pretty row which ends in the interloper taking 
to his heels to wait for a more propitious occasion. 

"When we are ready to carry our birds home we 
pull out the four long tail-feathers and knot them 
together at the tips. Then the quill ends are stuck 
through the soft part of the lower mandible, and the 
birds are strung together, eight or ten in a string. 
These strings are bunched together by tying the quill 
ends of the feathers, and we have our game festooned 
in compact shape for the triumphal march homeward 
bound." 

Alas, the pigeons and the frosty morning hunts and 
the delectable pigeon-pie are gone, no more to return. 
They are numbered with those recollections which help 
to convince me that the boys of to-day don't have as 
good times as we youngsters did in the prime of our 
busy out-door world. 



CHAPTER II 
The Passenger Pigeon 

(Columba Migratoria) 
From "American Ornithology," by Alexander Wilson 

THIS remarkable bird merits a distinguished 
place in the annals of our feathered tribes — 
a claim to which I shall endeavor to do justice; 
and, though it would be impossible, in the bounds 
allotted to this account, to relate all I have seen and 
heard of this species, yet no circumstance shall be 
omitted with which I am acquainted (however extraor- 
dinary some of these may appear) that may tend to 
illustrate its history. 

The wild pigeon of the United States inhabits a wide 
and extensive region of North America, on this side of 
the Great Stony Mountains, beyond which, to the west- 
ward, I have not heard of their being seen. According 
to Mr. Hutchins, they abound in the country around 
Hudson's Bay, where they usually remain as late as 
December, feeding, when the ground is covered with 
snow, on the buds of the juniper. They spread over the 
whole of Canada; were seen by Captain Lewis and his 
party near the Great Falls of the Missouri, upwards 

9 



lo The Passenger Pigeon 

of two thousand five hundred miles from its mouth, 
reckoning the meanderings of the river; were also met 
with in the interior of Louisiana by Colonel Pike; and 
extend their range as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, 
occasionally visiting or breeding in almost every quarter 
of the United States. 

But the most remarkable characteristic of these birds 
is their associating together, both in their migrations, 
and also during the period of incubation, in such pro- 
digious numbers, as almost to surpass belief; and which 
has no parallel among any other of the feathered tribes 
on the face of the earth, with which all naturalists are 
acquainted. These migrations appear to be undertaken 
rather in quest of food, than merely to avoid the cold 
of the climate, since we find them lingering in the north- 
ern regions, around Hudson's Bay, so late as December; 
and since their appearance is so casual and irregular, 
sometimes not visiting certain districts for several years 
in any considerable numbers, while at other times they 
are innumerable. I have witnessed these migrations in 
the Genesee country, often in Pennsylvania, and also 
in various parts of Virginia, with amazement; but all 
that I had then seen of them were mere straggling 
parties, when compared with the congregated millions 
which I have since beheld in our Western forests, in the 
States of Ohio, Kentucky, and the Indiana territory. 
These fertile and extensive regions abound with the 
nutritious beechnut, which constitutes the chief food of 



The Passenger Pigeon 1 1 

the wild pigeon. In seasons when these nuts are abun- 
dant, corresponding multitudes of pigeons may be confi- 
dently expected. It sometimes happens that, having 
consumed the whole produce of the beech trees, in an 
extensive district, they discover another, at the distance 
perhaps of sixty or eighty miles, to which they regu- 
larly repair every morning, and return as regularly in 
the course of the day, or in the evening, to their place of 
general rendezvous, or as it is usually called, the roost- 
ing place. These roosting places are always in the 
woods, and sometimes occupy a large extent of forest. 
When they have frequented one of these places for 
some time the appearance it exhibits is surprising. The 
ground is covered to the depth of several inches with 
their dung; all the tender grass and underwood de- 
stroyed; the surface strewed with large limbs of trees, 
broken down by the weight of the birds clustering one 
above another; and the trees themselves, for thousands 
of acres, killed as completely as if girdled with an ax. 
The marks of this desolation remain for many years on 
the spot; and numerous places could be pointed out, 
where, for several years after, scarcely a single vegetable 
made its appearance. 

When these roosts are first discovered, the inhabi- 
tants, from considerable distances, visit them in the 
night with guns, clubs, long poles, pots of sulphur, and 
various other engines of destruction. In a few hours 
they fill many sacks, and load their horses with them. 



12 The Passenger Pigeon 

By the Indians, a pigeon roost, or breeding place, is con- 
sidered an important source of national profit and de- 
pendence for the season; and all their active ingenuity 
is exercised on the occasion. The breeding place dif- 
fers from the former in its greater extent. In the west- 
ern countries above mentioned, these are generally in 
beech woods, and often extend, in nearly a straight line 
across the country for a great way. Not far from 
Shelbyville, in the State of Kentucky, about five years 
ago, there was one of these breeding places, which 
stretched through the woods in nearly a north and south 
direction; was several miles in breadth, and was said 
to be upwards of forty miles in extent! In this tract 
almost every tree was furnished with nests, wherever the 
branches could accommodate them. The pigeons made 
their first appearance there about the loth of April, 
and left it altogether, with their young, before the 
29th of May. 

As soon as the young were fully grown, and before 
they left the nests, numerous parties of the Inhabitants 
from all parts of the adjacent country came with wagons, 
axes, beds, cooking utensils, many of them accompanied 
by the greater part of their families, and encamped for 
several days at this Immense nursery. Several of them 
Informed me that the noise In the woods was so great 
as to terrify their horses, and that It was difficult for 
one person to hear another speak without bawling In 
his ear. The ground was strewed with broken limbs 



The Passenger Pigeon 13 



of trees, eggs, and young squab pigeons, which had 
been precipitated from above, and on which herds of 
hogs were fattening. Hawks, buzzards, and eagles 
were saihng about in great numbers, and seizing the 
squabs from their nests at pleasure; while from t^venty 
feet upwards to the tops of the trees the view through 
the woods presented a perpetual tumult of crowding 
and fluttering multitudes of pigeons, their wings roaring 
like thunder, mingled with the frequent crash of falling 
timber; for now the ax-men were at work cutting down 
those trees that seemed to be most crowded with nests, 
and contrived to fell them in such a manner that, in their 
descent, they might bring down several others; by which 
means the falling of one large tree sometimes produced 
two hundred squabs, little inferior in size to the old 
ones, and almost one mass of fat. On some single trees 
upwards of one hundred nests were found, each con- 
taining one young only; a circumstance in the history 
of this bird not generally known to naturalists. It was 
dangerous to walk under these flying and fluttering 
millions, from the frequent fall of large branches, 
broken down by the weight of the multitudes above, and 
which, in their descent, often destroyed numbers of the 
birds themselves; while the clothes of those engaged 
in traversing the woods were completely covered with 
the excrements of the pigeons. 

These circumstances were related to me by many of 
the most respectable part of the community in that 



14 The Passenger Pigeon 

quarter, and were confirmed, in part, by what I myself 
witnessed. I passed for several miles through this same 
breeding place, where every tree was spotted with nests, 
the remains of those above described. In many in- 
stances I counted upwards of ninety nests on a single 
tree, but the pigeons had abandoned this place for 
another, sixty or eighty miles off towards Green River, 
where they were said at that time to be equally 
numerous. From the great numbers that were con- 
stantly passing overhead to or from that quarter, I had 
no doubt of the truth of this statement. The mast 
had been chiefly consumed In Kentucky, and the pigeons, 
every morning a little before sunrise, set out for the 
Indiana territory, the nearest part of which was about 
sixty miles distant. Many of these returned before ten 
o'clock, and the great body generally appeared on their 
return a little after noon. 

I had left the public road to visit the remains of the 
breeding place near Shelbyville, and was traversing the 
woods with my gun, on my way to Frankfort, when, 
about one o'clock, the pigeons, which I had observed 
flying the greater part of the morning northerly, began 
to return in such immense numbers as I never before 
had witnessed. Coming to an opening by the side of 
a creek called the Benson, where I had a more uninter- 
rupted view, I was astonished at their appearance. 
They were flying with great steadiness and rapidity at 
a height beyond gunshot in several strata deep, and so 



The Passenger Pigeon 15 

close together that could shot have reached them one 
discharge could not have failed of bringing down 
several individuals. From right to left, far as the eye 
could reach, the breadth of this vast procession ex- 
tended, seeming everywhere equally crowded. Curious 
to determine how long this appearance would continue, 
I took out my watch to note the time, and sat down to 
observe them. It was then half-past one. I sat for 
more than an hour, but, instead of a diminution of this 
prodigious procession, it seemed rather to increase both 
in numbers and rapidity, and, anxious to reach Frank- 
fort before night, I rose and went on. About four 
o'clock in the afternoon I crossed the Kentucky River 
at the town of Frankfort, at which time the living tor- 
rent above my head seemed as numerous and as ex- 
tensive as ever. Long after this I observed them in 
large bodies that continued to pass for six or eight 
minutes, and these again were followed by other de- 
tached bodies, all moving in the same southeast direc- 
tion, till after six in the evening. The great breadth 
of front which this mighty multitude preserved would 
seem to intimate a corresponding breadth of their breed- 
ing place, which, by several gentlemen who had lately 
passed through part of it, was stated to me at several 
miles. It was said to be in Green County, and that 
the young began to fly about the middle of March. 
On the seventeenth of April, forty-nine miles beyond 
Danville, and not far from Green River, I crossed this 



1 6 The Passenger Pigeon 

same breeding place, where the nests, for more than 
three miles, spotted every tree ; the leaves not being yet 
out I had a fair prospect of them, and was really 
astonished at their numbers. A few bodies of pigeons 
lingered yet in different parts of the woods, the roar- 
ing of whose wings were heard in various quarters 
around me. 

All accounts agree in stating that each nest contains 
only one young squab. These are so extremely fat that 
the Indians, and many of the whites, are accustomed to 
melt down the fat for domestic purposes as a substitute 
for butter and lard. At the time they leave the nest 
they are nearly as heavy as the old ones, but become 
much leaner after they are turned out to shift for 
themselves. 

It is universally asserted in the western countries that 
the pigeons, though they have only one young at a time, 
breed thrice, and sometimes four times in the same 
season; the circumstances already mentioned render this 
highly probable. It is also worthy of observation that 
this takes place during the period when acorns, beech- 
nuts, etc., are scattered about in the greatest abundance 
and mellowed by the frost. But they are not confined 
to these alone; buckwheat, hempseed, Indian corn, 
hollyberries, hackberries, huckleberries, and many 
others furnish them with abundance at almost all 
seasons. The acorns of the live oak are also eagerly 
sought after by these birds, and rice has been fre- 



The Passenger Pigeon 17 



quently found in individuals killed many hundred miles 
to the northward of the nearest rice plantation. The 
vast quantity of mast which these multitudes consume 
is a serious loss to the bears, pigs, squirrels, and other 
dependents on the fruits of the forest. I have taken 
from the crop of a single wild pigeon a good handful of 
the kernels of beechnuts, intermixed with acorns and 
chestnuts. To form a rough estimate of the daily con- 
sumption of one of these immense flocks let us first 
attempt to calculate the numbers of that above men- 
tioned, as seen in passing between Frankfort and the 
Indiana territory. If we suppose this column to have 
been one mile in breadth (and I believe it to have been 
much more) , and that it moved at the rate of one mile 
in a minute, four hours, the time it continued passing, 
would make its whole length two hundred and forty 
miles. Again, supposing that each square yard of this 
moving body comprehended three pigeons, the square 
yards in the whole space, multiplied by three, would 
give two thousand two hundred and thirty millions, two 
hundred and seventy-two thousand pigeons I — an almost 
inconceivable multitude, and yet probably far below the 
actual amount. Computing each of these to consume 
half a pint of mast daily, the whole quantity at this rate 
would equal seventeen millions, four hundred and 
twenty-four thousand bushels per day! Heaven has 
wisely and graciously given to these birds rapidity of 
flight and a disposition to range over vast uncultivated 



1 8 The Passenger Pigeon 

tracts of the earth, otherwise they must have perished 
in the districts where they resided, or devoured up the 
whole productions of agriculture, as well as those of 
the forests. 

A few observations on the mode of flight of these 
birds must not be omitted. The appearance of large 
detached bodies of them in the air and the various evo- 
lutions they display are strikingly picturesque and in- 
teresting. In descending the Ohio by myself in the 
month of February I often rested on my oars to con- 
template their aerial manoeuvres. A column, eight or 
ten miles in length, would appear from Kentucky, high 
in air, steering across to Indiana. The leaders of this 
great body would sometimes gradually vary their course 
until it formed a large bend of more than a mile In 
diameter, those behind tracing the exact route of their 
predecessors. This would continue sometimes long 
after both extremities were beyond the reach of sight, 
so that the whole, with its glittery undulations, marked 
a space on the face of the heavens resembling the wind- 
ings of a vast and majestic river. When this bend be- 
came very great the birds, as if sensible of the unneces- 
sary circuitous course they were taking, suddenly 
changed their direction, so that what was in column 
before, became an immense front, straightening all its 
indentures, until it swept the heavens in one vast and 
infinitely extended line. Other lesser bodies also 
united with each other as they happened to approach 



The Passenger Pigeon 19 

with such ease and elegance of evolution, forming new 
figures, and varying these as they united or separated, 
that I never was tired of contemplating them. Some- 
times a hawk would make a sweep on a particular part 
of the column from a great height, when, almost as 
quick as lightning, that part shot downwards out of the 
common track, but soon rising again, continued advanc- 
ing at the same height as before. This inflection was 
continued by those behind, who, on arriving at this 
point, dived down, almost perpendicularly, to a great 
depth, and rising, followed the exact path of those that 
went before. As these vast bodies passed over the river 
near me, the surface of the water, which was before 
smooth as glass, appeared marked with innumerable 
dimples, occasioned by the dropping of their dung, re- 
sembling the commencement of a shower of large drops 
of rain or hail. 

Happening to go ashore one charming afternoon, to 
purchase some milk at a house that stood near the river, 
and while talking with the people within doors, I was 
suddenly struck with astonishment at a loud rushing 
roar, succeeded by instant darkness, which, on the first 
moment, I took for a tornado about to overwhelm the 
house and everything around in destruction. The peo- 
ple, observing my surprise, coolly said: "It is only the 
pigeons"; and on running out I beheld a flock, thirty or 
forty yards in width, sweeping along very low between 
the house and the mountain, or height, that formed the 



20 The Passenger Pigeon 

second bank of the river. These continued passing for 
more than a quarter of an hour, and at length varied 
their bearing so as to pass over the mountain, behind 
which they disappeared before the rear came up. 

In the Atlantic States, though they never appear in 
such unparalleled multitudes, they are sometimes very 
numerous, and great havoc is then made amongst them 
with the gun, the clap net, and various other imple- 
ments of destruction. As soon as it is ascertained in a 
town that the pigeons are flying numerously In the 
neighborhood, the gunners rise en masse, the clap nets 
are spread out on suitable situations, commonly on an 
open height in an old buckwheat field; four or five live 
pigeons, with their eyelids sewed up, are fastened on a 
movable stick — a small hut of branches is fitted up for 
the fowler at the distance of forty or fifty yards — by 
the pulling of a string the stick on which the pigeons 
rest is alternately elevated and depressed, which pro- 
duces a fluttering of their wings similar to that of birds 
just alighting; this being perceived by the passing flocks 
they descend with great rapidity, and, finding corn, 
buckwheat, etc., strewed about, begin to feed, and are 
instantly, by the pulling of a cord, covered by the net. 
In this manner ten, twenty, and even thirty dozen have 
been caught at one sweep. Meantime the air is 
darkened with large bodies of them moving in various 
directions; the woods also swarm with them In search of 
acorns; and the thundering of musketry is perpetual on 



The Passenger Pigeon 21 

all sides from morning to night. Wagon loads of them 
are poured into market, where they sell from fifty to 
twenty-five and even twelve cents per dozen; and 
pigeons become the order of the day at dinner, breakfast 
and supper, until the very name becomes sickening. 
When they have been kept alive and fed for some time 
on corn and buckwheat their flesh acquires great supe- 
riority; but, in their common state, they are dry and 
blackish and far inferior to the full grown young ones 
or squabs. 

The nest of the wild pigeon is formed of a few dry 
slender twigs, carelessly put together, and with so little 
concavity that the young one, when half grown, can 
easily be seen from below. The eggs are pure white. 
Great numbers of hawks, and sometimes the bald eagle 
himself, hover above those breeding places, and seize 
the old or the young from the nest amidst the rising 
multitudes, and with the most daring effrontery. The 
young, when beginning to fly, confine themselves to the 
under part of the tall woods where there is no brush, 
and where nuts and acorns are abundant, searching 
among the leaves for mast, and appear like a pro- 
digious torrent rolling through the woods, every one 
striving to be in the front. Vast numbers of them are 
shot while in this situation. A person told me that he 
once rode furiously into one of these rolling multitudes 
and picked up thirteen pigeons which had been trampled 
to death by his horse's feet. In a few minutes they will 



22 The Passenger Pigeon 

beat the whole nuts from a tree with their wings, while 
all is a scramble, both above and below, for the same. 
They have the same cooing notes common to domestic 
pigeons, but much less of their gesticulations. In some 
flocks you will find nothing but young ones, which are 
easily distinguishable by their motley dress. In others 
they will be mostly females, and again great multitudes 
of males with few or no females. I cannot account for 
this in any other way than that, during the time of incu- 
bation, the males are exclusively engaged in procuring 
food, both for themselves and their mates, and the 
young, being yet unable to undertake these extensive 
excursions, associate together accordingly. But even in 
winter I know of several species of birds who separate 
in this manner, particularly the red-winged starling, 
among whom thousands of old males may be found 
with few or no young or females along with them. 

Stragglers from these immense armies settle in 
almost every part of the country, particularly among 
the beech woods and in the pine and hemlock woods of 
the eastern and northern parts of the continent. Mr. 
Pennant informs us that they breed near Moose Fort, 
at Hudson's Bay, in N. latitude 51 degrees, and I 
myself have seen the remains of a large breeding place 
as far south as the country of the Choctaws, in latitude 
32 degrees. In the former of these places they are said 
to remain until December; from which circumstance it 
is evident that they are not regular in their migrations 



The Passenger Pigeon 23 

like many other species, but rove about as scarcity of 
food urges them. Every spring, however, as well as 
fall, more or less of them are seen In the neighborhood 
of Philadelphia ; but It Is only once In several years that 
they appear In such formidable bodies; and this com- 
monly when the snows are heavy to the north, the winter 
here more than usually mild, and acorns, etc., abundant. 
The passenger pigeon Is sixteen inches long, and 
twenty- four inches In extent; bill, black; nostril, covered 
by a high rounding protuberance; eye, brilliant fiery 
orange; orbit, or space surrounding it, purplish flesh- 
colored skin; head, upper part of the neck and chin, a 
fine slate blue, lightest on the chin; throat, breast, and 
sides, as far as the thighs, a reddish hazel; lower part 
of the neck and sides of the same, resplendent change- 
able gold, green, and purplish crimson, the last named 
most predominant; the ground color, slate; the plumage 
of this part is of a peculiar structure, ragged at the ends; 
belly and vent, white; lower part of the breast, fading 
into a pale vinaceous red; thighs, the same; legs and 
feet, lake, seamed with white; back, rump, and tail- 
coverts, dark slate, spotted on the shoulders with a few 
scattered marks of black; the scapulars, tinged with 
brown; greater coverts, light slate; primaries and sec- 
ondaries, dull black, the former tipped and edged with 
brownish white; tail, long, and greatly cuneiform, all 
the feathers tapering towards the point, the two middle 
ones plain deep black, the other five, on each side, 



24 The Passenger Pigeon 

hoary white, lightest near the tips, deepening into bluish 
near the bases, where each is crossed on the inner vane 
with a broad spot of black, and nearer the root with 
another of ferruginous; primaries edged with white; 
bastard wing, black. 

The female is about half an inch shorter, and an inch 
less in extent; breast, cinerous brown; upper part of 
the neck, inclining to ash ; the spot of changeable gold, 
green, and carmine, much less, and not so brilliant; 
tail coverts, brownish slate; naked orbits, slate colored; 
in all other respects like the male in color, but less 
vivid and more tinged with brown; the eye not so 
brilliant an orange. In both the tail has only twelve 
feathers. 




PASSENGER PIGEON {Columba Migrator ia) 

Upper bird, female ; lower, male 

Repyoduccci from tlic John J. Audiihon Plate 



CHAPTER III 
The Passenger Pigeon 

From «* Ornithological Biography," by John James Audubon 



T 



t I ^HE Passenger Pigeon, or, as it is usually named 
in America, the Wild Pigeon, moves with ex- 
treme rapidity, propelling itself by quickly 
repeated flaps of the wings, which it brings more or less 
near to the body, according to the degree of velocity 
which is required. Like the domestic pigeon, it often 
flies, during the love season, in a circling manner, sup- 
porting itself with both wings angularly elevated, in 
which position it keeps them until it is about to alight. 
Now and then, during these circular flights, the tips 
of the primary quills of each wing are made to strike 
against each other, producing a smart rap, which may 
be heard at a distance of thirty or forty yards. Before 
alighting, the wild pigeon, like the Carolina parrot and 
a few other species of birds, breaks the force of its 
flight by repeated flappings, as if apprehensive of re- 
ceiving injury from coming too suddenly into contact 
with the branch or the spot of ground on which it 
intends to settle. 

I have commenced my description of this species with 

25 



26 The Passenger Pigeon 

the above account of its flight, because the most impor- 
tant facts connected with its habits relate to its migra- 
tions. These are entirely owing to the necessity of pro- 
curing food, and are not performed with the view of 
escaping the severity of a northern latitude, or of seek- 
ing a southern one for the purpose of breeding. They 
consequently do not take place at any fixed period or 
season of the year. Indeed, it sometimes happens that 
a continuance of a sufficient supply of food in one dis- 
trict will keep these birds absent from another for years. 
I know, at least, to a certainty, that in Kentucky they 
remained for several years constantly, and were no- 
where else to be found. They all suddenly disap- 
peared one season when the mast was exhausted and did 
not return for a long period. Similar facts have been 
observed in other States. 

Their great power of flight enables them to survey 
and pass over an astonishing extent of country in a very 
short time. This is proved by facts well-known in 
America. Thus, pigeons have been killed in the 
neighborhood of New York, with their crops full of 
rice, which they must have collected in the fields of 
Georgia and Carolina, these districts being the nearest 
in which they could possibly have procured a supply of 
that kind of food. As their power of digestion is so 
great that they will decompose food entirely in twelve 
hours, they must in this case have traveled between three 
hundred and four hundred miles in six hours, which 



The Passenger Pigeon 27 

shows their power of speed to be at an average about 
one mile in a minute. A velocity such as this would 
enable one of these birds, were it so inclined, to visit the 
European continent in less than three days. 

This great power of flight is seconded by as great a 
power of vision, which enables them, as they travel at 
that swift rate, to inspect the country below, discover 
their food with facility, and thus attain the object for 
which their journey has been undertaken. This I have 
also proved to be the case, by having observed them, 
when passing over a sterile part of the country, or one 
scantily furnished with food suited to them, keep high 
in the air, flying with an extended front, so as to enable 
them to survey hundreds of acres at once. On the con- 
trary, when the land is richly covered with food, or the 
trees abundantly hung with mast, they fly low, in order 
to discover the part most plentifully supplied. 

Their body is of an elongated oval form, steered by a 
long, well-plumed tail, and propelled by well-set wings, 
the muscles of which are very large and powerful for 
the size of the bird. When an individual is seen glid- 
ing through the woods and close to the observer, it 
passes like a thought, and on trying to see It again, the 
eye searches in vain; the bird Is gone. 

The multitudes of wild pigeons in our woods are 
astonishing. Indeed, after having viewed them so 
often, and under so many circumstances, I even now 
feel inclined to pause, and assure myself that what I 



28 The Passenger Pigeon 

am going to relate is fact. Yet I have seen it all, and 
that, too, in the company of persons who, like myself, 
were struck with amazement. 

In the autumn of 1813, I left my house at Hender- 
son, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louis- 
ville. In passing over the Barrens a few miles beyond 
Hardensburgh, I observed the pigeons flying from 
northeast to southwest, in greater numbers than I 
thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an 
inclination to count the flocks that might pass within 
the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated 
myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my 
pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a 
short time, finding the task which I had undertaken im- 
practicable, as the birds poured in in countless multi- 
tudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, 
found that one hundred and sixty-three had been made 
in twenty-one minutes. I traveled on, and still met more 
the farther I proceeded. The air was Hterally filled 
with pigeons; the light of noonday was obscured as by 
an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting 
flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a 
tendency to lull my senses to repose. 

Whilst waiting for dinner at Young's Inn, at the con- 
fluence of Salt River with the Ohio, I saw, at my leisure, 
immense legions still going by, with a front reaching 
far beyond the Ohio on the west, and the beechwood 
forests directly on the east of me. Not a single bird 



The Passenger Pigeon 29 

alighted; for not a nut or acorn was that year to be 
seen in the neighborhood. They consequently flew so 
high, that different trials to reach them with a capital 
rifle proved ineffectual; nor did the reports disturb them 
in the least. I cannot describe to you the extreme 
beauty of their aerial evolutions, when a hawk chanced 
to press upon the rear of the flock. At once, like a tor- 
rent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into a 
compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the 
center. In these almost solid masses, they darted for- 
ward in undulating and angular lines, descended and 
swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, 
mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast col- 
umn, and, when high, were seen wheeling and twisting 
within their continued lines, which then resembled the 
coils of a gigantic serpent. 

Before sunset I reached Louisville, distant from Har- 
densburgh fifty-five miles. The pigeons were still pass- 
ing in undiminished numbers, and continued to do so 
for three days in succession. The people were all in 
arms. The banks of the Ohio were crowded with men 
and boys. Incessantly shooting at the pilgrims, which 
there flew lower as they passed the river. Multitudes 
were thus destroyed. For a week or more, the popula- 
tion fed on no other flesh than that of pigeons, and 
talked of nothing but pigeons. The atmosphere, during 
this time, was strongly Impregnated with the peculiar 
odor which emanates from the species. 



30 The Passenger Pigeon 

It Is extremely interesting to see flock after flock per- 
forming exactly the same evolutions which had been 
traced as it were in the air by a preceding flock. Thus, 
should a hawk have charged on a group at a certain 
spot, the angles, curves and undulations that have been 
described by the birds, in their efforts to escape from 
the dreaded talons of the plunderer, are undeviatingly 
followed by the next group that comes up. Should the 
bystander happen to witness one of these affrays, and, 
struck with the rapidity and elegance of the motions 
exhibited, feel desirous of seeing them repeated, his 
wishes will be gratified if he only remain in the place 
until the next group comes up. 

It may not, perhaps, be out of place to attempt an 
estimate of the number of pigeons contained in one of 
those mighty flocks, and of the quantity of food daily 
consumed by its members. The inquiry will tend to 
show the astonishing beauty of the great Author of 
Nature in providing for the wants of His creatures. 
Let us take a column of one mile in breadth, which is 
far below the average size, and suppose it passing over 
us without intemiption for three hours, at the rate 
mentioned above of one mile in a minute. This will 
give a parallelogram of one hundred and eighty by 
one, covering one hundred and eighty square miles. 
Allowing two pigeons to the square yard, we have one 
billion, one hundred and fifty millions, one hundred and 
thirty-six thousand pigeons in one flock. As every 



The Passenger Pigeon 31 

pigeon daily consumes fully half a pint of food, the 
quantity necessary for supplying this vast multitude 
must be eight millions, seven hundred and twelve thou- 
sand bushels per day. 

As soon as the pigeons discover a sufficiency of food 
to entice them to alight, they fly around in circles, re- 
viewing the country below. During their evolutions, 
on such occasions, the dense mass which they form ex- 
hibits a beautiful appearance, as It changes its direction, 
now displaying a glistening sheet of azure, when the 
backs of the birds come simultaneously into view, and 
anon, suddenly presenting a mass of rich deep purple. 
They then pass lower, over the woods, and for a 
moment are lost among the foliage, but again emerge, 
and are seen gliding aloft. They now alight, but the 
next moment, as If suddenly alarmed, they take to wing, 
producing by the flapping of their wings a noise like 
the roar of distant thunder, and sweep through the 
forests to see if danger is near Hunger, however, soon 
brings them to the ground. When alighted, they are 
seen Industriously throwing up the withered leaves in 
quest of the fallen mast. The rear ranks are con- 
tinually rising, passing over the main body, and alight- 
ing In front, in such rapid succession, that the whole 
flock seems still on the wing. The quantity of ground 
thus swept is astonishing, and so completely has it been 
cleared, that the gleaner who might follow in their rear 
would find his labor completely lost. Whilst feeding. 



32 The Passenger Pigeon 

their avidity is at times so great that in attempting to 
swallow a large acorn or nut, they are seen gasping for 
a long while, as if in agonies of suffocation. 

On such occasions, when the woods are filled with 
these pigeons, they are killed in immense numbers, 
although no apparent diminution ensues. About the 
middle of the day, after their repast is finished, they 
settle on the trees, to enjoy rest, and digest their food. 
On the ground they walk with ease, as well as on the 
branches, frequently jerking their beautiful tail, and 
moving the neck backwards and forwards in the most 
graceful manner. As the sun begins to sink beneath the 
horizon, they depart eti masse for the roosting place, 
which not infrequently is hundreds of miles distant, as 
has been ascertained by persons who have kept an 
account of their arrivals and departures. 

Let us now, kind reader, inspect their place of nightly 
rendezvous. One of these curious roosting places, on 
the banks of the Green River in Kentucky, I repeatedly 
visited. It was, as is always the case, in a portion of 
the forest where the trees were of great magnitude, and 
where there was little underwood. I rode through it 
upwards of forty miles, and, crossing it in different 
parts, found its average breadth to be rather more than 
three miles. My first view of it was about a fortnight 
subsequent to the period when they had made choice of 
it, and I arrived there nearly two hours before sunset. 
Few pigeons were then to be seen, but a great number 



The Passenger Pigeon 33 

of persons, with horses and wagons, guns and ammu- 
nition, had already established encampments on the 
borders. 

Two farmers from the vicinity of Russelsville, dis- 
tant more than a hundred miles, had driven upwards 
of three hundred hogs to be fattened on the pigeons 
which were to be slaughtered. Here and there, the 
people employed in plucking and salting what had 
already been procured, were seen sitting in the midst 
of large piles of these birds. The dung lay several 
inches deep, covering the whole extent of the roosting 
place, like a bed of snow. Many trees two feet in 
diameter, I observed, were broken off at no great dis- 
tance from the ground ; and the branches of many of the 
largest and tallest had given way, as if the forest had 
been swept by a tornado. Everything proved to me 
that the number of birds resorting to this part of the 
forest must be immense beyond conception. As the 
period of their arrival approached, their foes anxiously 
prepared to receive them. Some were furnished with 
iron pots containing sulphur, others with torches of pine 
knots, many with poles, and the rest with guns. The 
sun was lost to our view, yet not a pigeon had arrived. 
Everything was ready, and all eyes were gazing on the 
clear sky, which appeared in glimpses amidst the tall 
trees. Suddenly there burst forth a general cry of 
"Here they come!" The noise which they made, 
though yet distant, reminded me of a hard gale at sea 



34 The Passenger Pigeon 

passing through the rigging of a close-reefed vessel. As 
the birds arrived and passed over me, I felt a current 
of air that surprised me. Thousands were seen 
knocked down by the pole-men. The birds continued 
to pour in. The fires were lighted, and a magnificent, 
as well as wonderful and almost terrifying sight pre- 
sented itself. The pigeons, arriving by thousands, 
alighted everywhere, one above another, until solid 
masses as large as hogsheads were formed on the 
branches all round. Here and there the perches gave 
way under the weight with a crash, and, falling to the 
ground destroyed hundreds of the birds beneath, forc- 
ing down the dense groups with which every stick was 
loaded. It was a scene of uproar and confusion. I 
found it quite useless to speak, or even to shout to those 
persons who were nearest to me. Even the reports of 
the guns were seldom heard, and I was made aware of 
the firing only by seeing the shooters reloading. 

No one dared venture within the line of devastation. 
The hogs had been penned up in due time, the picking 
up of the dead and wounded being left for the next 
morning's employment. The pigeons were constantly 
coming, and it was past midnight before I perceived a 
decrease in the number of those that arrived. The 
uproar continued the whole night; and as I was anxious 
to know to what distance the sound reached, I sent off 
a man, accustomed to perambulate the forest, who, re- 
turning two hours afterwards. Informed me he had 



The Passenger Pigeon 35 

heard it distinctly when three miles distant from the 
spot. Toward the approach of day, the noise in some 
measure subsided, long before objects were distinguish- 
able, the pigeons began to move off in a direction quite 
different from that in which they had arrived the even- 
ing before, and at sunrise all that were able to fly had 
disappeared. The bowlings of the wolves now reached 
our ears, and the foxes, lynxes, cougars, bears, rac- 
coons, opossums, and pole-cats were seen sneaking off, 
whilst eagles and hawks of different species, accom- 
panied by a crowd of vultures, came to supplant them 
and enjoy their share of the spoil. 

It was then that the authors of all this devastation 
began their entry amongst the dead, the dying and the 
mangled. The pigeons were picked up and piled in 
heaps, until each had as many as he could possibly dis- 
pose of, when the hogs were let loose to feed on the 
remainder. 

Persons unacquainted with these birds might natu- 
rally conclude that such dreadful havoc would soon put 
an end to the species. But I have satisfied myself, by 
long observation, that nothing but the gradual diminu- 
tion of our forests can accomplish their decrease, as they 
not infrequently quadruple their numbers yearly, and 
always at least double it. In 1805 I saw schooners 
loaded in bulk with pigeons caught up the Hudson 
River, coming into the wharf at New York, when the 
birds sold for a cent apiece. I knew a man in Penn- 



36 The Passenger Pigeon 

sylvanla, who caught and killed upward of five hun- 
dred dozens in a clap net in one day, sweeping some- 
times twenty dozens or more at a single haul. In the 
month of March, 1830, they were so abundant in the 
markets of New York, that piles of them met the eye 
in every direction. I have seen the negroes at the 
United States' Salines or Saltworks of Shawnee Town, 
wearied with killing pigeons, as they alighted to drink 
the water issuing from the leading pipes, for weeks 
at a time; and yet in 1826, in Louisiana, I saw congre- 
gated flocks of these birds as numerous as ever I had 
seen them before, during a residence of nearly thirty 
years In the United States. 

The breeding of the wild pigeons, and the places 
chosen for that purpose, are points of great interest. 
The time Is not much Influenced by season, and the place 
selected is where food is most plentiful and most attain- 
able, and always at a convenient distance from water. 
Forest trees of great height are those In which the 
pigeons form their nests. Thither the countless myriads 
resort, and prepare to fulfill one of the great laws of 
nature. At this period the note of the pigeon is a soft 
coo-coo-coo-coo much shorter than that of the domestic 
species. The common notes resemble the monosyllables 
kee-kee-kee-kee, the first being the loudest, the others 
gradually diminishing In power. The male assumes a 
pompous demeanor, and follows the female whether on 
the ground or on the branches, with spread tail and 



The Passenger Pigeon 37 

drooping wings, which it rubs against the part over 
which it is moving. The body is elevated, the throat 
swells, the eyes sparkle. He continues his notes, and 
now and then rises on the wing, and flies a few yards to 
approach the fugitive and timorous female. Like the 
domestic pigeon and other species, they caress each other 
by billing, in which action, the bill of the one is intro- 
duced transversely into that of the other, and both par- 
ties alternately disgorge the contents of their crops by 
repeated efforts. These preliminary affairs are soon set- 
tled, and the pigeons commence their nests in general 
peace and harmony. They are composed of a few dry 
twigs, crossing each other, and are supported by forks 
of the branches. On the same tree from fifty to a hun- 
dred nests may frequently be seen : I might say a much 
greater number, were I not anxious, kind reader, that 
however wonderful my account of the wild pigeons is, 
you may not feel disposed to refer it to the mar- 
velous. The eggs are two in number, of a broadly 
elliptical form, and pure white. During incubation, the 
male supplies the female with food. Indeed, the tender- 
ness and affection displayed by these birds toward 
their mates, are in the highest degree striking. It is a 
remarkable fact that each brood generally consists of a 
male and a female. 

Here again, the tyrant of the creation, man, inter- 
feres, disturbing the harmony of this peaceful scene. 
As the young birds grow up, their enemies armed with 



38 The Passenger Pigeon 

axes, reach the spot, to seize and destroy all they can. 
The trees are felled, and made to fall in such a way 
th^t the cutting of one causes the overthrow of another, 
or shakes the neighboring trees so much, that the young 
pigeons, or squabs, as they are named, are violently 
hurled to the ground. In this manner, also, immense 
quantities are destroyed. 

The young are fed by the parents in the manner de- 
scribed above; in other words, the old bird introduces 
its bill into the mouth of the young one in a transverse 
manner, or with the back of each mandible opposite the 
separations of the mandibles of the young bird, and dis- 
gorges the contents of its crop. As soon as the young 
birds are able to shift for themselves, they leave their 
parents, and continue separate until they attain matu- 
rity. By the end of six months they are capable of 
reproducing their species. 

The flesh of the wild pigeon is of a dark color, but 
affords tolerable eating. That of young birds from the 
nest is much esteemed. The skin is covered with small 
white filmy scales. The feathers fall off at the least 
touch, as has been remarked to be the case in the Caro- 
lina Turtle. I have only to add that this species, like 
others of the same genus, immerses its head up to the 
eyes while drinking. 

In March, 1830, I bought about three hundred and 
fifty of these birds in the market of New York, at four 
cents apiece. Most of these I carried alive to England, 



The Passenger Pigeon 39 

and distributed among several noblemen, presenting 
some at the same time to the Zoological Society. 

ADULT MALE 

Bill — straight, of ordinary length, rather slender, 
broader than deep at the base, with a tumid, fleshy 
covering above, compressed toward the end, rather 
obtuse; upper mandible slightly declinate at the tip, 
edges inflected. Head — small; neck, slender; body, 
rather full. Legs — short and strong; tarsus, rather 
rounded; anteriorly scutellate; toes, slightly webbed at 
the base; claws, short, depressed, obtuse. 

Plumage — blended on the neck and under parts, com- 
pact on the back. Wings — long, the second quill long- 
est. Tail — graduated, of twelve tapering feathers. 

Bill — black. Iris — bright red. Feet — carmine pur- 
ple, claws blackish. Head — above and on the sides light 
blue. Throat, fore-neck, breast, and sides — light 
brownish-red, the rest of the under parts white. Lower 
part of the neck behind, and along the sides, changing 
to gold, emerald green, and rich crimson. The general 
color of the upper parts is grayish-blue, some of the 
wing-coverts marked with a black spot. Quills and 
larger wing-coverts blackish, the primary quills bluish 
in the outer web, the larger coverts whitish at the tip. 
The two middle feathers of the tail black, the rest pale 
blue at the base, becoming white toward the end. 

Length, 16^ inches; extent of wings, 25; bill, along 



40 The Passenger Pigeon 

the ridge, 5-6, along the gap, i 1-12; tarsus, i^; mid- 
dle toe, I 1-3. 

ADULT FEMALE 

The colors of the female are much duller than those 
of the male, although their distribution is the same. 
The breast is light grayish-brown, the upper parts pale 
reddish-brown, tinged with blue. The changeable spot 
on the neck is of less extent, and the eye of a somewhat 
duller red, as are the feet. 

Length, 15 inches; extent of wings, 23 ; bill, along the 
ridge, 3-4; along the gap, 5-6. 



CHAPTER IV 
As James Fenimore Cooper Saw It 

ONE of the most graphic descriptions ever 
written of a pigeon flight and slaughter is to 
be found in Cooper's novel, "The Pioneers," 
from which I make the following extracts : 

" See, cousin Bess ! see, Duke, the pigeon-roosts of 
the south have broken up ! They are growing more 
thick every instant. Here is a flock that the eye cannot 
see the end of. There is food enough in it to keep the 
army of Xerxes for a month and feathers enough to 
make beds for the whole country. . . . The re- 
ports of the firearms became rapid, whole volleys rising 
from the plain, as flocks of more than ordinary num- 
bers darted over the opening, shadowing the field like 
a cloud; and then the light smoke of a single piece 
would issue from among the leafless bushes on the moun- 
tain, as death was hurled on the retreat of the affrighted 
birds, who were rising from a volley, in a vain effort to 
escape. Arrows and missiles of every kind were in the 
midst of the flocks; and so numerous were the birds, 
and so low did they take their flight, that even long 
poles, in the hands of those on the sides of the moun- 

41 



42 The Passenger Pigeon 

tain, were used to strike them to the earth. ... So 
prodigious was the number of the birds, that the scatter- 
ing fire of the guns, with the hurthng missiles, and the 
cries of the boys, had no other effect than to break off 
small flocks from the immense masses that continued to 
dart along the valley, as if the whole of the feathered 
tribe were pouring through that one pass. None pre- 
tended to collect the game, which lay scattered over the 
fields in such profusion as to cover the very ground with 
the fluttering victims." 

The slaughter described finally ended with a grand 
finale when an old swivel gun was " loaded with hands- 
ful of bird-shot," and fired into the- mass of pigeons 
with such fatal effect that there were birds enough 
killed and wounded on the ground to feed the whole 
settlement. 

The following description is from " The Chain- 
bearer," also by J. Fenimore Cooper. The region of 
which he writes is in Central New York. 

" I scarce know how to describe the remarkable 
scene. As we drew near to the summit of the hill, 
pigeons began to be seen fluttering among the branches 
over our heads, as individuals are met along the roads 
that lead into the suburbs of a large town. We had 
probably seen a thousand birds glancing around among 
the trees, before we came in view of the roost itself. 
The numbers increased as we drew nearer, and pres- 
ently the forest was alive with them. 



As James Fenimore Cooper Saw It 43 

"The fluttering was incessant, and often startling as 
we passed ahead, our march producing a movement in 
the living crowd, that really became confounding. 
Every tree was literally covered with nests, many having 
at least a thousand of these frail tenements on their 
branches, and shaded by the leaves. They often touched 
each other, a wonderful degree of order prevailing 
among the hundreds of thousands of families that were 
here assembled. 

" The place had the odor of a fowl-house, and squabs 
just fledged sufficiently to trust themselves In short 
flights, were fluttering around us in all directions, in 
tens of thousands. To these were to be added the par- 
ents of the young race endeavoring to protect them and 
guide them In a way to escape harm. Although the 
birds rose as we approached, and the woods just around 
us seemed fairly alive with pigeons, our presence pro- 
duced no general commotion ; every one of the feathered 
throng appearing to be so much occupied with its own 
concerns, as to take little heed of the visit of a party of 
strangers, though of a race usually so formidable to 
their own. 

" The masses moved before us precisely as a crowd of 
human beings yields to a pressure or a danger on any 
given point; the vacuum created by its passage filling 
In Its rear as the water of the ocean flows Into the track 
of the keel. 

" The effect on most of us was confounding, and I 



44 The Passenger Pigeon 

can only compare the sensation produced on myself by 
the extraordinary tumult to that a man experiences at 
finding himself suddenly placed In the midst of an ex- 
cited throng of human beings. The unnatural disregard 
of our persons manifested by the birds greatly height- 
ened the effect, and caused me to feel as If some un- 
earthly Influence reigned In the place. It was strange, 
Indeed, to be In a mob of the feathered race, that scarce 
exhibited a consciousness of one's presence. The 
pigeons seemed a world of themselves, and too much 
occupied with their own concerns to take heed of mat- 
ters that lay beyond them. 

" Not one of our party spoke for several minutes. 
Astonishment seemed to hold us all tongue-tied, and we 
moved slowly forward Into the fluttering throng, silent, 
absorbed, and full of admiration of the works of the 
Creator. It was not easy to hear each others' voices 
when we did speak, the incessant fluttering of wings 
filling the air. Nor were the birds silent In other 
respects. 

" The pigeon Is not a noisy creature, but a million 
crowded together on the summit of one hill, occupying a 
space of less than a mile square, did not leave the forest 
In its ordinary Impressive stillness. As we advanced, 
I offered my arm, almost unconsciously again to Dus, 
and she took it with the same abstracted manner as that 
In which it had been held forth for her acceptance. In 
this relation to each other, we continued to follow the 



As James Fenimore Cooper Saw It 45 



grave-looking Onondago, as he moved, still deeper and 
deeper, into the midst of the fluttering tumult. 



" While standing wondering at the extraordinary 
scene around us, a noise was heard rising above that of 
the incessant fluttering which I can only liken to that 
of the tram.pling of thousands of horses on a beaten 
road. This noise at first sounded distant, but it in- 
creased rapidly in proximity and power, until it came 
rolling in upon us, among the tree-tops, like a crash of 
thunder. The air was suddenly darkened, and the place 
where we stood as somber as a dusky twilight. At the 
same instant, all the pigeons near us, that had been on 
their nests, appeared to fall out of them, and the space 
immediately above our heads was at once filled with 
birds. 

" Chaos itself could hardly have represented greater 
confusion, or a greater uproar. As for the birds, they 
now seemed to disregard our presence entirely; possi- 
bly they could not see us on account of their own num- 
bers, for they fluttered in between Dus and myself, hit- 
ting us with their wings, and at times appearing as if 
about to bury us in avalanches of pigeons. Each of us 
caught one at least in our hands, while Chainbearer and 
the Indian took them in some numbers, letting one pris- 
oner go as another was taken. In a word, we seemed to 
be in a world of pigeons. This part of the scene may 



46 The Passenger Pigeon 

have lasted a minute, when the space around us was sud- 
denly cleared, the birds glancing upward among the 
branches of the trees, disappearing among the foliage. 
All this was the effect produced by the return of the 
female birds, which had been off at a distance, some 
twenty miles at least, to feed on beechnuts, and which 
now assumed the places of the males on the nests; the 
latter taking a flight to get their meal in their turn. 

" I have since had the curiosity to make a sort of an 
estimate of the number of the birds that must have 
come in upon the roost. In that, to us, memorable 
moment. Such a calculation, as a matter of course, must 
be very vague, though one may get certain principles 
by estimating the size of a flock by the known rapidity 
of the flight, and other similar means; and I remem- 
ber that Frank Malbone and myself supposed that a 
million of birds must have come in on that return, and 
as many departed ! As the pigeon Is a very voracious 
bird, the question is apt to present Itself, where food 
is obtained for so many mouths; but, when we remember 
the vast extent of the American forests, this difiiculty 
Is at once met. Admitting that the colony we visited 
contained many millions of birds, and, counting old and 
young, I have no doubt it did, there was probably a 
fruit-bearing tree for each, within an hour's flight from 
that very spot ! 

" Such Is the scale on which Nature labors In the 
wilderness! I have seen insects fluttering In the air at 



As James Fenimore Cooper Saw It 47 

particular seasons, and at particular places, until they 
formed little clouds; a sight every one must have wit- 
nessed on many occasions; and as those Insects appeared, 
on their diminished scale, so did the pigeons appear to 
us at the roost of Mooseridge." 



CHAPTER V 
The Wild Pigeon of North America 

By Chief Pokagon,* from "The Chautauquan," November, 1895. 
Vol. 22, No. 20. 

THE migratory or wild pigeon of North Amer- 
ica was known by our race as 0-me-me-wog. 
Why the European race did not accept that 
name was, no doubt, because the bird so much resem- 
bled the domesticated pigeon; they naturally called it a 
wild pigeon, as they called us wild men. 

This remarkable bird differs from the dove or domes- 
ticated pigeon, which was imported into this country, 
in the grace of its long neck, its slender bill and legs, 
and its narrow wings. Its tail is eight inches long, hav- 
ing twelve feathers, white on the under side. The two 
center feathers are longest, while five arranged on either 
side diminished gradually each one-half inch in length, 

* Simon Pokagon, of Michigan, is a full-blooded Indian, the last Potta- 
wattomie chief of the Pokagon band. He is author of the "Red Man's 
Greeting," and has been called by the press the " Redskin poet, bard, and 
Longfellow of his race." His father, chief before him, sold the site of 
Chicago and the surrounding country to the United States in 1833 for three 
cents an acre. He was the first red man to visit President Lincoln after his 
inauguration. In a letter written home at the time he said: " I have met 
Lincoln, the great chief; he is very tall, has a sad face, but he is a good man, 
I saw it in his eyes and felt it in his hand-shaking. He will help us get 



The Wild Pigeon of North America 49 

giving to the tail when spread an almost conical appear- 
ance. Its back and upper part of the wings and head 
are a darkish blue, with a silken velvety appearance. Its 
neck is resplendent in gold and green with royal purple 
intermixed. Its breast is reddish-brown, fading toward 
the belly into white. Its tail is tipped with white, inter- 
mixed with bluish-black. The female is one inch shorter 
that the male, and her color less vivid. 

It was proverbial with our fathers that if the Great 
Spirit in His wisdom could have created a more elegant 
bird in plumage, form, and movement. He never did. 
When a young man I have stood for hours admiring 
the movements of these birds. I have seen them fly in 
unbroken lines from the horizon, one line succeeding 
another from morning until night, moving their un- 
broken columns like an army of trained soldiers push- 
ing to the front, while detached bodies of these birds 
appeared in different parts of the heavens, pressing for- 
ward in haste like raw recruits preparing for battle. At 
other times I have seen them move in one unbroken col- 
umn for hours across the sky, like some great river, 

payment for Chicago land." Soon after $39,000 was paid. In 1874 he 
visited President Grant. He said of him: "I expected he would put on 
military importance, but he treated me kindly, give me a cigar, and we 
smoked the pipe of peace together." In 1893 he procured judgment 
against the United States for over $100,000 still due on the sale of the 
Chicago land by his father. He was honored on Chicago. Day at the 
World's Fair by first ringing the new Bell of Liberty and speaking in be- 
half of his race to the greatest crowd ever assembled on earth. After his 
speech "Glory Hallelujah" was sung before the bell for the first time on 
the Fair grounds. 



50 The Passenger Pigeon 

ever varying in hue; and as the mighty stream, sweeping 
on at sixty miles an hour, reached some deep valley, 
it would pour its living mass headlong down hundreds 
of feet, sounding as though a whirlwind was abroad in 
the land. I have stood by the grandest waterfall of 
America and regarded the descending torrents in wonder 
and astonishment, yet never have my astonishment, won- 
der, and admiration been so stirred as when I have wit- 
nessed these birds drop from their course like meteors 
from heaven. 

While feeding, they always have guards on duty, to 
give alarm of danger. It is made by the watch-bird as 
it takes Its flight, beating its wings together in quick 
succession, sounding like the rolling beat of a snare 
drum. Quick as thought each bird repeats the alarm 
with a thundering sound, as the flock struggles to rise, 
leading a stranger to think a young cyclone is then being 
born. 

. . . About the middle of May, 1850, while In the 
fur trade, I was camping on the head waters of the 
Manistee River in Michigan. One morning on leaving 
my wigwam I was startled by hearing a gurgling, rum- 
bling sound, as though an army of horses laden with 
sleigh bells was advancing through the deep forests 
towards me. As I listened more Intently I concluded 
that instead of the tramping of horses It was distant 
thunder; and yet the morning was clear, calm and 
beautiful. Nearer and nearer came the strange com- 



The Wild Pigeon of North America 51 

mingling sounds of sleigh bells, mixed with the rumbling 
of an approaching storm. While I gazed in wonder and 
astonishment, I beheld moving toward me in an un- 
broken front millions of pigeons, the first I had seen that 
season. They passed like a cloud through the branches 
of the high trees, through the underbrush and over the 
ground, apparently overturning every leaf. Statue-like 
I stood, half-concealed by cedar boughs. They fluttered 
all about me, lighting on my head and shoulders; gently 
I caught two in my hands and carefully concealed them 
under my blanket. 

I now began to realize they were mating, preparatory 
to nesting. It was an event which I had long hoped to 
witness; so I sat down and carefully watched their move- 
ments, amid the greatest tumult. I tried to understand 
their strange language, and why they all chatted in con- 
cert. In the course of the day the great on-moving mass 
passed by me, but the trees were still filled with them 
sitting in pairs in convenient crotches of the limbs, now 
and then gently fluttering their half-spread wings and 
uttering to their mates those strange, bell-like wooing 
notes which I had mistaken for the ringing of bells in 
the distance. 

On the third day after, this chattering ceased and all 
were busy carrying sticks with which they were building 
nests in the same crotches of the limbs they had occu- 
pied In pairs the day before. On the morning of the 
fourth day their nests were finished and eggs laid. The 



52 The Passenger Pigeon 

hen birds occupied the nests in the morning, while the 
male birds went out into the surrounding country to 
feed, returning about ten o'clock, taking the nests, while 
the hens went out to feed, returning about three o'clock. 
Again changing nests, the male birds went out the second 
time to feed, returning at sundown. The same routine 
was pursued each day until the young ones were hatched 
and nearly half grown, at which time all the parent 
birds left the brooding grounds about daylight. On the 
morning of the eleventh day, after the eggs were laid, I 
found the nesting grounds strewn with egg shells, con- 
vincing me that the young were hatched. In thirteen 
days more the parent birds left their young to shift for 
themselves, flying to the east about sixty miles, when 
they again nested. The female lays but one egg during 
the same nesting. 

Both sexes secrete In their crops milk or curd with 
which they feed their young, until they are nearly ready 
to fly, when they stuff them with mast and such other 
raw material as they themselves eat, until their crops 
exceed their bodies in size, giving to them an appearance 
of two birds with one head. Within two days after the 
stuffing they become a mass of fat — "a squab." At this 
period the parent bird drives them from the nests to 
take care of themselves, while they fly off within a day 
or two, sometimes hundreds of miles, and again nest. 

It has been well established that these birds look after 
and take care of all orphan squabs whose parents have 



The Wild Pigeon of North America 53 

been killed or are missing. These birds are long-lived, 
having been known to live twenty-five years caged. 
When food is abundant they nest each month in the 
year. 

Their principal food is the mast of the forest, except 
when curd is being secreted in their crops, at which 
time they denude the country of snails and worms for 
miles around the nesting grounds. Because they nest 
in such immense bodies, they are frequently compelled 
to fly from fifty to one hundred miles for food. 

During my early life I learned that these birds in 
spring and fall were seen in their migrations from the 
Atlantic to the Mississippi River. This knowledge, 
together with my personal observation of their countless 
numbers, led me to believe they were almost as inexhaus- 
tible as the great ocean itself. Of course I had witnessed 
the passing away of the deer, buffalo, and elk, but I 
looked upon them as local in their habits, while these 
birds spanned the continent, frequently nesting beyond 
the reach of cruel man. 

Between 1840 and 1880 I visited in the States of 
Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan many brooding places that 
were from twenty to thirty miles long and from three 
to four miles wide, every tree in its limits being spotted 
with nests. Yet, notwithstanding their countless num- 
bers, great endurance, and long life, they have almost 
entirely disappeared from our forests. We strain our 
eyes in spring and autumn in vain to catch a glimpse of 



54 The Passenger Pigeon 

these pilgrims. White men tell us they have moved 
in a body to the Rocky Mountain region, where they 
are as plenty as they were here, but when we ask red 
men, who are familiar with the mountain country, about 
them, they shake their heads in disbelief, 

A pigeon nesting was always a great source of rev- 
enue to our people. Whole tribes would wigwam in the 
brooding places. They seldom killed the old birds, 
but made great preparation to secure their young, out 
of which the squaws made squab butter and smoked 
and dried them by thousands for future use. Yet, 
under our manner of securing them, they continued to 
increase. 

White men commenced netting them for market 
about the year 1840, These men were known as pro- 
fessional pigeoners, from the fact that they banded 
themselves together, so as to keep in telegraphic com- 
munication with these great moving bodies. In this 
they became so expert as to be almost continually on 
the borders of their brooding places. As they were 
always prepared with trained stool-pigeons and flyers, 
which they carried with them, they were enabled to 
call down the passing flocks and secure as many by net 
as they were able to pack in ice and ship to market. In 
the year 1848 there were shipped from Catteraugus 
County, N, Y., eighty tons of these birds; and from 
that time to 1878 the wholesale slaughter continued 
to increase, and in that year there were shipped from 



The Wild Pigeon of North America ^^ 



Michigan not less than three hundred tons of birds. 
During the thirty years of their greatest slaughter there 
must have been shipped to our great cities 5,700 tons 
of these birds; allowing each pigeon to weigh one- 
half pound would show twenty-three millions of birds. 
Think of it! And all these were caught during their 
brooding season, which must have decreased their num- 
bers as many more. Nor is this all. During the same 
time hunters from all parts of the country gathered at 
these brooding places and slaughtered them without 
mercy. 

In the above estimate are not reckoned the thousands 
of dozens that were shipped alive to sporting clubs for 
trap-shooting, as well as those consumed by the local 
trade throughout the pigeon districts of the United 
States. 

These experts finally learned that the birds while 
nesting were frantic after salty mud and water, so they 
frequently made, near the nesting places, what were 
known by the craft as mud beds, which were salted, 
to which the birds would flock by the million. In 
April, 1876, I was invited to see a net over one of these 
death pits. It was near Petoskey, Mich. I think I 
am correct in saying the birds piled one upon another 
at least two feet deep when the net was sprung, and 
It seemed to me that most of them escaped the trap, 
but on killing and counting, there were found to be 
over one hundred dozen, all nesting birds. 



56 The Passenger Pigeon 

When squabs of a nesting became fit for market, 
these experts, prepared with climbers, would get into 
some convenient place in a tree-top loaded with nests, 
and with a long pole punch out the young, which would 
fall with a thud like lead on the ground. 

In May, 1880, I visited the last known nesting 
place east of the Great Lakes. It was on Piatt River 
in Benzie County, Mich. There were on these 
grounds many large white birch trees filled with nests. 
These trees have manifold bark, which, when old, hangs 
in shreds like rags or flowing moss, along their trunks 
and limbs. This bark will burn like paper soaked In 
oil. Here, for the first time, I saw with shame and pity 
a new mode for robbing these birds' nests, which I look 
upon as being devilish. These outlaws to all moral 
sense would touch a lighted match to the bark of the 
trees at the base, when with a flash — more like an explo- 
sion — the blast would reach every limb of the tree, and 
while the affrighted young birds would leap simultane- 
ously to the ground, the parent birds, with plumage 
scorched, would rise high in air amid flame and smoke. 
I noticed that many of these squabs were so fat and 
clumsy they would burst open on striking the ground. 
Several thousand were obtained during the day by this 
cruel process. 

That night I stayed with an old man on the highlands 
just north of the nesting. In the course of the evening 
I explained to him the cruelty that was being shown to 



The Wild Pigeon of North America ^y 

the young birds in the nesting. He listened to me in 
utter astonishment, and said, "My God, is that possi- 
ble!" Remaining silent a few moments with bowed 
head, he looked up and said, "See here, old Indian, you 
go out with me in the morning and I will show you a 
way to catch pigeons that will please any red man and 
the birds, too." 

Early the next morning I followed him a few rods 
from his hut, where he showed me an open pole pen, 
about two feet high, which he called his bait bed. Into 
this he scattered a bucket of wheat. We then sat in 
ambush, so as to see through between the poles into the 
pen. Soon they began to pour into the pen and gorge 
themselves. While I was watching and admiring them, 
all at once to my surprise they began fluttering and 
falling on their sides and backs and kicking and quiver- 
ing like a lot of cats with paper tied over their feet. 
He jumped into the pen, saying, "Come on, you red- 
skin." 

I was right on hand by his side. A few birds flew out 
of the pen apparently crippled, but we caught and caged 
about one hundred fine birds. After my excitement 
was over I sat down on one of the cages, and thought 
in my heart, "Certainly Pokagon is dreaming, or this 
long-haired white man is a witch." I finally said, "Look 
here, old fellow, tell me how you did that." He gazed 
at me, holding his long white beard in one hand, and 
said with one eye half shut and a sly wink with the 



58 The Passenger Pigeon 

other, "That wheat was soaked in whisky." His an- 
swer fell like lead upon my heart. We had talked 
temperance together the night before, and the old man 
wept when I told him how my people had fallen before 
the intoxicating cup of the white man like leaves before 
the blast of autumn. In silence I left the place, saying 
in my heart, "Surely the time is now fulfilled, when 
false prophets shall show signs and wonders to seduce, 
if it were possible, even the elect." 

I have read recently in some of our game-sporting 
journals, "A warwhoop has been sounded against some 
of our western Indians for killing game In the moun- 
tain region." Now, if these red men are guilty of a 
moral wrong which subjects them to punishment, I 
would most prayerfully ask in the name of Him who 
suffers not a sparrow to fall unnoticed, what must be 
the nature of the crime and degree of punishment await- 
ing our white neighbors who have so wantonly butch- 
ered and driven from our forests these wild pigeons, the 
most beautiful flowers of the animal creation of North 
America. 

In closing this article I wish to say a few words 
relative to the knowledge of things about them that 
these birds seem to possess. 

In the spring of 1866 there were scattered through- 
out northern Indiana and southern Michigan vast num- 
bers of these birds. On April 10, in the morning, they 
commenced moving in small flocks in diverging lines 



The Wild Pigeon of North America 59 

toward the northwest part of Van Buren County, 
Mich. For two days they continued to pour into that 
vicinity from all directions, commencing at once to build 
their nests. I talked with an old trapper who lived 
on the brooding grounds, and he assured me that the 
first pigeons he had seen that season were on the day 
they commenced nesting and that he had lived there 
fifteen years and never known them to nest there 
before. 

From the above instance and hundreds of others I 
might mention, it is well established in my mind beyond 
a reasonable doubt, that these birds, as well as many 
other animals, have communicated to them by some 
means unknown to us, a knowledge of distant places, 
and of one another when separated, and that they act 
on such knowledge with just as much certainty as If 
It were conveyed to them by ear or eye. Hence we 
conclude It Is possible that the Great Spirit In His 
wisdom has provided them a means to receive electric 
communications from distant places and with one an- 
other. 



CHAPTER VI 
The Passenger Pigeon 

From "Life Histories of North American Birds," * 
by Charles Bendire 

GEOGRAPHICAL Range: Deciduous forest 
regions of eastern North America; west, casu- 
ally, to Washington and Nevada; Cuba. 
The breeding range of the Passenger Pigeon to-day- 
is to be looked for principally in the thinly settled and 
wooded region along our northern border, from north- 
ern Maine westward to northern Minnesota; in the 
Dakotas, as well as in similar localities in the eastern 
and middle portions of the Dominion of Canada, and 
north at least to Hudson's Bay. Isolated and scattering 
pairs probably still breed in the New England States, 
northern New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wis- 
consin, Minnesota, and a few other localities further 
south, but the enormous breeding colonies, or pigeon 
roosts, as they were formerly called, frequently covering 
the forest for miles, and so often mentioned by natural- 

*The first volume of Captain Bendire's monumental work was pub- 
lished in 1892, by which time the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was 
foretold as a matter of a few more years. His contribution to the subject 
therefore deals with a much later period in the history of the bird and links 
the studies of Wilson and Audubon with the present day. 

60 



The Passenger Pigeon 6i 

ists and hunters in former years, are, like the immense 
herds of the American bison which roamed over the 
great plains of the West in countless thousands but a 
couple of decades ago, things of the past, probably 
never to be seen again. 

In fact, the extermination of the Passenger Pigeon 
has progressed so rapidly during the past twenty years 
that it looks now as if their total extermination might 
be accomplished within the present century. The only 
thing which retards their complete extinction is that it 
no longer pays to net these birds, they being too scarce 
for this now, at least in the more settled portions of the 
country, and also, perhaps, that from constant and un- 
remitting persecution on their breeding grounds they 
have changed their habits somewhat, the majority no 
longer breeding in colonies, but scattering over the 
country and breeding in isolated pairs. 

Mr. William Brewster, in his article "On the Present 
Status of the Wild Pigeon," etc., writes as follows: "In 
the spring of 1888 my friend, Captain Bendire, wrote 
me that he had received news from a correspondent in 
central Michigan to the effect that wild pigeons had 
arrived there in great numbers and were preparing to 
nest. Acting on this Information, I started at once, in 
company with Mr. Jonathan Dwight, jr., to visit the 
expected 'nesting' and learn as much as possible about 
the habits of the breeding birds, as well as to secure 
specimens of their skins and eggs. 



62 The Passenger Pigeon 

"On reaching Cadillac, Michigan, May 8, we found 
that large flocks of pigeons had passed there late in 
April, while there were reports of similar flights from 
almost every county in the southern part of the State. 
Although most of the birds had passed on before our 
arrival, the professional pigeon netters, confident that 
they would finally breed somewhere in the southern pen- 
insula, were busily engaged getting their nets and other 
apparatus in order for an extensive campaign against 
the poor birds. 

"We were assured that as soon as the breeding 
colony became established the fact would be known all 
over the State, and there would be no diflSculty in ascer- 
taining its precise location. Accordingly, we waited 
at Cadillac about two weeks, during which time we were 
in correspondence with netters in different parts of the 
region. No news came, however, and one by one the 
netters lost heart, until finally most of them agreed that 
the pigeons had gone to the far north, beyond the reach 
of mail and telegraphic communication. As a last hope, 
we went, on May 15, to Oden, in the northern part of 
the southern peninsula, about twenty miles south of the 
Straits of Mackinac. Here we found that there had 
been, as elsewhere in Michigan, a heavy flight of birds 
in the latter part of April, but that all had passed on. 
Thus our trip proved a failure as far as actually seeing 
a pigeon 'nesting' was concerned; but partly by observa- 
tion, partly by talking with the netters, farmers, sports- 



The Passenger Pigeon 63 

men, and lumbermen, we obtained much information 
regarding the flight of 1888, and the larger nestings 
that have occurred in Michigan within the past decade, 
as well as many interesting details, some of which ap- 
pear to be new about the habits of the birds. 

"Our principal informant was Mr. S. S. Stevens, of 
Cadillas, a veteran pigeon netter of large experience, 
and, as we were assured by everyone whom we asked 
concerning him, a man of high reputation for veracity 
and carefulness of statement. His testimony was as 
follows: 'Pigeons appeared that year in numbers near 
Cadillac, about the 20th of April. He saw fully sixty 
in one day, scattered about in beech woods near the 
head of Clam Lake, and on another occasion about one 
hundred drinking at the mouth of the brook, while a 
flock that covered at least 8 acres was observed by a 
friend, a perfectly reliable man, flying in a north- 
easterly direction. Many other smaller flocks were re- 
ported." 

"The last nesting of any importance in Michigan was 
in 1 88 1, a few miles west of Grand Traverse. It was 
only of moderate size, perhaps 8 miles long. Subse- 
quently, in 1886, Mr. Stevens found about fifty dozen 
pairs nesting in a swamp near Lake City. He does 
not doubt that similar small colonies occur every year, 
besides scattered pairs. In fact, he sees a few pigeons 
about Cadillac every summer, and in the early autumn 
young birds, barely able to fly, are often met with 



64 The Passenger Pigeon 

singly or in small parties in the woods. Such stragglers 
attract little attention, and no one attempts to net them, 
although many are shot. 

"The largest nesting he ever visited was in 1876 or 
1877. It began near Petoskey, and extended northeast 
past Crooked Lake for 28 miles, averaging 3 or 4 miles 
wide. The birds arrived in two separate bodies, one 
directly from the south by land, the other following 
the east coast of Wisconsin, and crossing at Manitou 
Island. He saw the latter body come in from the lake 
at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It was a compact 
mass of pigeons, at least 5 miles long by i mile wide. 
The birds began building when the snow was 12 inches 
deep in the woods, although the fields were bare at the 
time. So rapidly did the colony extend its boundaries 
that it soon passed literally over and around the place 
where he was netting, although when he began, this 
point was several miles from the nearest nest. Nestings 
usually start in deciduous woods, but during their prog- 
ress the pigeons do not skip any kind of trees they 
encounter. The Petoskey nesting extended 8 miles 
through hardwood timber, then crossed a river bottom 
wooded with arborvitas, and thence stretched through 
white pine woods about 20 miles. For the entire dis- 
tance of 28 miles every tree of any size had more or 
less nests, and many trees were filled with them. None 
were lower than about 1 5 feet above the ground. 

"Pigeons are very noisy when building. They make 



The Passenger Pigeon 65 

a sound resembling the croaking of wood frogs. Their 
combined clamor can be heard 4 or 5 miles away when 
the atmospheric conditions are favorable. Two eggs 
are usually laid, but many nests contain only one. Both 
birds incubate, the females between 2 o'clock p.m. and 
9 o'clock or 10 o'clock the next morning; the males 
from 9 or 10 o'clock a.m. to 2 o'clock p.m. The 
males feed twice each day, namely, from daylight to 
about 8 o'clock a.m. and again late in the afternoon. 
The females feed only during the forenoon. The 
change is made with great regularity as to time, all the 
males being on the nest by 10 o'clock a.m. 

"During the morning and evening no females are 
ever caught by the netters; during the forenoon no 
males. The sitting bird does not leave the nest until 
the bill of its incoming mate nearly touches its tail, 
the former slipping off as the latter takes it place. 

"Thus the eggs are constantly covered, and but few 
are ever thrown out despite the fragile character of the 
nests and the swaying of the trees In the high winds. 
The old birds never feed in or near the nesting, leaving 
all the beech mast, etc., there for their young. Many 
of them go 100 miles each day for food. Mr. Stevens 
Is satisfied that pigeons continue laying and hatching 
during the entire summer. They do not, however, use 
the same nesting place a second time In one season, the 
entire colony always moving from 20 to 100 miles after 
the appearance of each brood of young. Mr. Stevens, 



66 The Passenger Pigeon 

as well as many of the other netters with whom we 
talked, believes that they breed during their absence 
in the South in the winter, asserting as proof of this 
that young birds in considerable numbers often accom- 
pany the earlier spring flights. 

"Five weeks are consumed by a single nesting. Then 
the young are forced out of their nests by the old 
birds. Mr. Stevens has twice seen this done. One 
of the pigeons, usually the male, pushes the young off 
the nest by force. The latter struggles and squeals pre- 
cisely like a tame squab, but is finally crowded out along 
the branch, and after further feeble resistance flutters 
down to the ground. Three or four days elapse before 
it is able to fly well. Upon leaving the nest it is often 
fatter and heavier than the old birds; but it quickly 
becomes much thinner and lighter, despite the enor- 
mous quantity of food it consumes. 

"On one occasion an immense flock of young birds 
became bewildered in a fog while crossing Crooked 
Lake, and descending struck the water and perished by 
thousands. The shore for miles was covered a foot 
or more deep with them. The old birds rose above the 
fog, and none were killed. 

"At least five hundred men were engaged in netting 
pigeons during the great Petoskey nesting of 1 8 8 1 . Mr. 
Stevens thought that they may have captured on the 
average 20,000 birds apiece during the season. Some- 
times two carloads were shipped south on the railroad 



The Passenger Pigeon 67 

each day. Nevertheless he believed that not one bird 
in a thousand was taken. Hawks and owls often 
abound near the nesting. Owls can be heard hooting 
there all night long. The cooper's hawk often catches 
the stool-pigeon. During the Petoskey season Mr. 
Stevens lost twelve stool birds in this way. 

"There has been much dispute among writers and 
observers, beginning with Audubon and Wilson, and 
extending down to the present day, as to whether the 
wild pigeon has two eggs or one. I questioned Mr. 
Stevens closely on this point. He assured me that he 
had frequently found two eggs or two young in the 
same nest, but that fully half the nests which he had 
examined contained only one. 

"Our personal experience with the pigeon in Michi- 
gan was as follows : 

"During our stay at Cadillac we saw them daily, 
sometimes singly, usually in pairs, never more than two 
together. Nearly every large tract of old growth 
mixed woods seemed to contain at least one pair. They 
appeared to be settled for the season, and we were 
convinced that they were preparing to breed. In fact, 
the oviduct of a female, killed May 10, contained an 
egg nearly ready for the shell. 

"At Oden we had a similar experience, although there 
were perhaps fewer pigeons there than about Cadillac. 

"On May 24, Mr. Dwight settled any possible ques- 
tion as to their breeding in scattered pairs, by finding 



68 The Passenger Pigeon 

a nest on which he distinctly saw a bird sitting. The 
following day I accompanied him to this nest, which 
was at least 50 feet above the ground, on the horizontal 
branch of a large hemlock, about 20 feet out from the 
trunk. As we approached the spot an adult male 
pigeon started from a tree near that on which the nest 
was placed, and a moment later a young bird, with 
stub tail and barely able to fly, fluttered feebly after 
it. This young pigeon was probably the bird seen the 
previous day on the nest, for on climbing to the latter, 
Mr. Dwight found it empty, but fouled with excrement, 
some of which was perfectly fresh. A thorough inves- 
tigation of the surrounding woods, which were a hun- 
dred acres or more in extent, and composed chiefly of 
beeches, with a mixture of white pines and hemlocks 
of the largest size, convinced us that no other pigeons 
were nesting in them. 

"All the netters with whom we talked believe firmly 
that there are just as many pigeons in the West as there 
ever were. They say the birds have been driven from 
Michigan and the adjoining States, partly by persecu- 
tion, and partly by the destruction of the forests, and 
have retreated to uninhabited regions, perhaps north 
of the Great Lakes in British North America. Doubt- 
less there is some truth in this theory; for, that the 
pigeon is not, as has been asserted so often recently, 
on the verge of extinction, is shown by the flight which 
passed through Michigan in the Spring of 1888. This 



The Passenger Pigeon 69 

flight, according to the testimony of many rehable ob- 
servers, was a large one, and the birds must have 
formed a nesting of considerable extent in some region 
so remote that no news of its presence reached the ears 
of the vigilant netters. Thus it is probable that enough 
Pigeons are left to restock the West, provided that laws 
sufficiently stringent to give them fair protection be at 
once enacted. The present laws of Michigan and Wis- 
consin are simply worse than useless, for, while they 
prohibit disturbing the birds within the nesting, they 
allow unlimited netting only a few miles beyond Its out- 
skirts during the entire breeding season. The theory 
is, that they are so infinitely numerous that their ranks 
are not seriously thinned by catching a few millions of 
breeding birds in a summer, and that the only danger 
to be guarded against is that of frightening them away 
by the use of guns or nets in the woods where their 
nests are placed. The absurdity of such reasoning is 
self-evident, but, singularly enough, the netters, many 
of whom struck me as intelligent and honest men, seem 
really to believe In it. As they have more or less local 
influence, and, in addition, the powerful backing of the 
large game dealers In the cities, It Is not likely that any 
really effectual laws can be passed until the last of our 
Passenger Pigeons are preparing to follow the great 
auk and the American bison." 

In order to show a little more clearly the immense 
destruction of the Passenger Pigeon in a single year 



70 The Passenger Pigeon 

and at one roost only, I quote the following extract 
from an interesting article "On the Habits, Methods of 
Capture, and Nesting of the Wild Pigeon," with an 
account of the Michigan nesting of 1878, by Prof. H. B. 
Roney, in the Chicago Field (Vol. X, pp. 345-347) : 

"The nesting area, situated near Petoskey, covered 
something like 100,000 acres of land, and included not 
less than 150,000 acres within its limits, being in length 
about 40 miles by 3 to 10 in width. The number of 
dead birds sent by rail was estimated at 12,500 daily, 
or 1,500,000 for the summer, besides 80,352 live birds; 
an equal number was sent by water. We have," says 
the writer, "adding the thousands of dead and wounded 
ones not secured, and the myriads of squabs left dead 
in the nest, at the lowest possible estimate, a grand 
total of one billion pigeons sacrificed to Mammon 
during the nesting of 1878." 

The last mentioned figure is undoubtedly far above 
the actual number killed during that or any other year, 
but even granting that but a million were killed at this 
roost, the slaughter is enormous enough, and it is not 
strange that the number of these pigeons are now few, 
compared with former years. 

Capt. B. F. Goss, of Peewaukee, Wisconsin, writes 
me: "Ten years ago the wild pigeon bred in great 
roosts in the northern parts of Wisconsin, and it also 
bred singly in this vicinity; up to six or eight years ago 
they were plenty. The nest was a small, rough plat- 



The Passenger Pigeon 71 

form of twigs, from 10 to 15 feet from the ground. I 
have often found two eggs in a nest, but one is by far 
the more common. These single nests have been 
thought by some accidental, but for years they bred in 
this manner all over the county, as plentifully as any of 
our birds. I also found them breeding singly in Iowa. 
These single nests have not attracted attention like the 
great roosts, but I think it is a common manner of build- 
ing with this species." 

Mr. Frank J. Thompson, in charge of the Zoological 
Gardens at Cincinnati, Ohio, gives the following 
account of the breeding of the wild pigeon in con- 
finement: "During the spring of 1877, the society pur- 
chased three pairs of trapped birds, which were placed 
in one of the outer aviaries. Early in March, 1878, 
I noticed that they were mating, and procuring some 
twigs, I wove three rough platforms, and fastened them 
up in convenient places, at the same time throwing a 
further supply of building material on the floor. 
Within twenty-four hours two of the platforms were 
selected; the male carrying the material, whilst the 
female busied herself in placing it. A single egg was 
soon laid in each nest and incubation commenced. On 
March 16, there was quite a heavy fall of snow, and on 
the next morning I was unable to see the birds on their 
nests on account of the accumulation of the snow piled 
on the platforms around them. Within a couple of 
days it had all disappeared, and for the next four or 



72 The Passenger Pigeon 

five nights a self-registering thermometer, hanging in 
the aviary, marked from 14° to 10°. In spite of these 
drawbacks both of the eggs were hatched and the young 
ones reared. They have since continued to breed regu- 
larly, and now I have twenty birds, having lost several 
eggs from falling through their illy-contrived nests 
and one old male." 

The Passenger Pigeon has been found nesting in 
Wisconsin and Iowa during the first week in April, 
and as late as June 5 and 12 in Connecticut and Minne- 
sota. Their food consists of beech nuts, acorns, wild 
cherries, and berries of various kinds, as well as different 
kinds of grain. They are said to be very fond of, and 
feed extensively on, angle worms, vast numbers of 
which frequently come to the surface after heavy rains, 
also on hairless caterpillars. 

Their movements, at all seasons, seem to be very 
irregular, and are greatly affected by the food supply. 
They may be exceedingly common at one point one 
year, and almost entirely wanting the next. They gen- 
erally winter south of latitude 36°. 

Their notes during the mating season are said to be 
a short "coo-coo," and the ordinary call note is a "kee- 
kee-kee," the first syllable being louder and the last 
fainter than the middle one. 

Opinions differ as to the number of broods In a sea- 
son; while the majority of observers assert that but one, 
a few others say that two, are usually raised. The eggs 



The Passenger Pigeon 73 

vary in number from one to two in a set, and incubation 
lasts from eighteen to twenty days, both sexes assisting. 
These eggs are pure white in color, slightly glossy, and 
usually elliptical oval in shape; some may be called 
broad elliptical oval. 

The average measurements of twenty specimens in 
the U. S. National Museum collection is 37.5 by 26.5 
millimetres. The largest egg measures 39.5 by 28.5, 
the smallest 33.5 by 26 millimetres. 



CHAPTER VII 
Netting the Pigeons 

By William Brewster, from "The Auk," a Quarterly Journal of 
Ornithology, October, 1889. 

IN the spring of 1888 my friend, Captain Bendire, 
wrote to me that he had received news from a 
correspondent in central Michigan to the effect 
that wild pigeons had arrived there in large numbers 
and were preparing to nest. Acting on this informa- 
tion I started at once, in company with Mr. Jona- 
than Dwight, Jr., to visit the expected "nesting" and 
learn as much as possible about the habits of the 
breeding birds, as well as to secure specimens of their 
skins and eggs. 

. . . Pigeon netting in Michigan is conducted as 
follows: Each netter has three beds; at least two, and 
sometimes as many as ten "strikes" are made on a single 
bed in one day, but the bed is often allowed to "rest" 
for a day or two. Forty or fifty dozen birds are a good 
haul for one "strike." Often only ten or twelve dozen 
are taken. Mr. Stevens' highest "catch" is eighty-six 
dozen, but once he saw one hundred and six dozen cap- 
tured at a single "strike." If too large a number are 
on the bed, they will sometimes raise the net bodily and 

74 



Netting the Pigeons y^ 

escape. Usually about one-third are too quick for the 
net and fly out before it falls. Two kinds of beds are 
used, the "mud" bed and the "dry" bed. The former 
is the most killing in Michigan, but, for unknown rea- 
son, it will not attract birds in Wisconsin. 

It is made of mud, kept in a moist condition and 
saturated with a mixture of saltpeter and anise seed. 
Pigeons are very fond of salt and resort to salt springs 
wherever they occur. The dry bed is simply a level 
space of ground carefully cleared of grass, weeds, etc., 
and baited with corn or other grain. Pigeons are pecu- 
liar, and their habits must be studied by the netter if 
he would be successful. When they are feeding on 
beech mast, they often will not touch grain of any kind, 
and the mast must be used for bait. 

A stool bird is an essential part of the netter's outfit. 
It is tied on a box, and by an ingenious arrangement 
of cords, by which it can be gently raised or lowered, 
is made to flap its wings at intervals. This attracts the 
attention of passing birds which alight on the nearest 
tree, or on a perch which is usually provided for that 
purpose. After a portion of the flock has descended 
to the bed, they are started up by "raising" the stool 
bird, and fly back to the perch. When they fly down a 
second time all or nearly all the others follow or 
accompany them and the net is "struck." 

The usual method of killing pigeons is to break 
their necks with a small pair of pincers, the ends of 



76 The Passenger Pigeon 

which are bent so that they do not quite meet. Great 
care must be taken not to shed blood on the bed, for 
the pigeons notice this at once and are much alarmed 
by it. Young birds can be netted in wheat stubble 
in the autumn, but this is seldom attempted. When 
just able to fly, however, they are caught in enormous 
numbers near the "nestings" in pens made of slats. A 
few dozen old pigeons are confined in the pens as decoys, 
and a net is thrown over the mouth of the pen when a 
sufficient number of young birds have entered it. 

Mr. Stevens has known over four hundred dozen 
young pigeons to be taken at once by this method. The 
first birds sent to market yield the netter about one 
dollar a dozen. At the height of the season the price 
sometimes falls as low as twelve cents a dozen. It 
averages about twenty-five cents. 



CHAPTER VIII 
Efforts to Check the Slaughter 

By Prof. H. B. Roney, East Saginaw, Mich. 

The following article appeared in "American Field," of Chicago, Jan. 
II, 1879. Parts omitted here referred to an ineffectual attempt on the part 
of the Saginaw and Bay City Game Protection Clubs to put a stop to the 
illegal netting and shooting of pigeons. The Michigan law was a bungling 
piece of business, working rather in the interest of the netters than of the 
birds. Prof. Roney and Mr. McLean accompanied the two representatives 
of the Game Protective Clubs sent North on this mission. I make this 
explanation as certain parts of the article I reproduce would otherwise not 
be as well understood. 

FOR many years Passenger Pigeon nestings have 
been established in Michigan, and by a notice- 
able concurrence, only in even alternate years, 
as follows: 1868, 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876, 1878. In 
1876 there were no less than three nestings in the State, 
one each in Newaygo, Oceana, and Grand Traverse 
counties. 

Large numbers of professional "pigeoners," as they 
term themselves, devote their whole time to the business 
of following up and netting wild pigeons for gain and 
profit. These men carefully study the habits and direc- 
tion of flight of the birds, and in the spring of the 
year can tell with considerable accuracy in about what 

77 



yS The Passenger Pigeon 

locality a nesting is to form. The indications are soon 
known throughout the fraternity and the gathering of 
the clans commences. The netters follow up the pigeons 
in their flight for hundreds of miles. The past year 
there have been nestings in Pennsylvania, Ohio and 
Michigan, though in the former two States they were of 
short duration, as they soon broke up and the birds 
turned their flight to the northwest. The flight of a 
pigeon is, under favorable conditions, sixty to ninety 
miles an hour, and these birds of passage leaving the 
Pennsylvania forests at daybreak can reach the Michi- 
gan nesting grounds by sunset. 

Many of the little travellers came from the westward, 
crossing the stormy waters of the lake with the speed 
of a dart. From the four quarters of the globe, seem- 
ingly, they gather. Over the mountains, lakes, rivers, 
and prairies they speed their aerial flight, through 
storm, in sunshine and rain. Actuated as if by a com- 
mon impulse toward the same object, their swift wings 
soon reach the summer nursery, to which they are 
drawn from points hundreds of miles distant by an in- 
stinct which surpasses human comprehension. 

No less remarkable is the wisdom with which the 
nesting places are chosen, they being always in the 
densest woods, not in large and heavy timber, but gen- 
erally in smaller trees with many branches, cedars, and 
saplings. The presence of large quantities of mast, 
which is the principal food of these birds, especially 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 79 

beech nuts, is a prominent consideration in the selection 
of a nesting ground. As the feed in the vicinity of the 
nesting becomes exhausted, the birds are compelled to 
go daily farther and farther- for food, even as high 
as seventy-five or one hundred miles, and these trips, 
which are taken twice a day, are known as the morning 
and evening flights. 

The apparatus for the capture of wild pigeons con- 
sists of a net about six feet wide and twenty to thirty 
feet long. The operator first chooses the location for 
setting his net, which, it is needless to add, is in utter 
disregard of the State law, which prescribes certain 
limits within which nets must not be placed. A bed of 
a creek or low marshy spot is chosen, if possible at a 
natural salt lick, or a bed of muck, upon which the 
birds feed. The ground is cleared of grass and weeds, 
and to allure the birds the bed is "baited" with salt and 
sulphur several days before the net is to be placed. A 
bough house is made about twenty feet from the end of 
the bed, and all is ready for the net and its victims. A 
bird discovers the tempting spot, and with the instinct 
of the honey-bee, returns and brings several others, 
while these in turn bring a multitude, and in less than 
two days the bed is fairly blue with birds feeding on 
the seasoned muck. 

The net is then set by an adjustment of ropes and a 
powerful spring pole, the net being laid along one side 
of the bed, and the operator retires to his bough house. 



8o The Passenger Pigeon 

through which the ropes run, where he waits concealed 
for the flights. 

Many trappers use two nets ranged along opposite 
sides of the bed, which are thrown toward each other 
and meet in the center. When enough birds are gath- 
ered upon the beds to make a profitable throw, the 
operator gives a quick jerk upon the rope, the net flies 
over in an instant, while in its meshes struggle hundreds 
of unwilling prisoners. 

After pinching their necks the trapper removes the 
dead victims, resets the trap, and is ready for another 
haul. To lure down the birds from their flight over- 
head, most netters use "fliers" or "stool-pigeons." The 
former are birds held captive by a cord, tied to the leg, 
being thrown up into the air when a flight is observed 
approaching, and drawn fluttering down when the 
"flier" has reached its limit. The latter is a live pigeon 
tied to a small circular framework of wood or wire 
attached to the end of a slender and elastic pole, which 
is raised and lowered by the trapper from his place of 
concealment by a stout cord and which causes constant 
fluttering. A good stool-pigeon (one which will stay 
upon the stool) is rather difficult to obtain, and Is worth 
from $5 to $25. Many trappers use the same birds 
for several years in succession. 

The number of pigeons caught in a day by an expert 
trapper will seem Incredible to one who has not wit- 
nessed the operation. A fair average is sixty to ninety 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 8i 

dozen birds per day per net and some trappers will 
not spring a net upon less than ten dozen birds. Higher 
figures than these are often reached, as in the case of 
one trapper who caught and delivered 2,000 dozen 
pigeons in ten days, being 200 dozen, or about 2,500 
birds per day. A double net has been known to catch 
as high as 1,332 birds at a single throw, while at natural 
salt licks, their favorite resort, 300 and 400 dozen, or 
about 5,000 birds have been caught in a single day by 
one net. 

The prices of dead birds range from thirty-five cents 
to forty cents per dozen at the nesting. In Chicago 
markets fifty to sixty cents. Squabs twelve cents per 
dozen in the woods, in metropolitan markets sixty cents 
to seventy cents. In fashionable restaurants they are 
served as a delicious tid-bit at fancy prices. Live birds 
are worth at the trapper's net forty cents to sixty cents 
per dozen; in cities $1 to $2. It can thus be easily seen 
that the business, when at all successful, is a very profit- 
able one, for from the above quotations a pencil will 
quickly figure out an income of $10 to $40 per day for 
the "poor and hard-working pigeon trapper." One 
"pigeoner" at the Petoskey nesting was reported to be 
worth $60,000, all made in that business. He must 
have slain at least three million pigeons to gain this 
amount of money. 

For several years violations of the laws protecting 
pigeons in brooding time have been notorious in the 



82 The Passenger Pigeon 

Michigan nestings. Professional "pigeoners" did not 
for an instant pretend to observe the law, and a lax and 
indifferent public opinion permitted the illegal slaughter 
to go on without let or hindrance, while itinerant 
pigeon trappers from all parts of the United States, 
grew rich at the expense of the commonwealth, and in 
intentional violation of its laws. Each succeeding year 
the news has been spread far and wide until it became 
useless to conceal the fact that pigeon trapping was a 
profitable business, the year of 1876 witnessing a magni- 
tude in the traffic which exceeded anything heretofore 
known in the country. 

In the early part of March last, a pigeon nesting 
formed just north of Petoskey, Michigan. Not many 
days had passed before information was conveyed to 
the game protection clubs of East Saginaw and Bay 
City, that enormous quantities of pigeons were being 
killed in open and defiant violation of the law. On 
reaching Petoskey we found the condition of affairs had 
not been magnified; indeed, it exceeded our gravest 
fears. Here, a few miles north, was a pigeon nesting 
of irregular dimensions, estimated by those best quali- 
fied to judge, to be forty (40) miles In length, by three 
to ten in width, probably the largest nesting that has 
ever existed in the United States, covering something 
like 100,000 acres of land, and including not less than 
150,000 acres within its limits. 

At the hotel we met one we were glad to see, in the 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 83 

person of "Uncle Len" Jewell, of Bay City, an old 
woodsman and "land-looker." Len had for several 
weeks been looking land in the upper peninsula, and was 
on his return home. At our solicitation he agreed to 
remain for two or three days, and co-operate with us. 
In the village nothing else seemed to be thought of but 
pigeons. It was the one absorbing topic everywhere. 
The "pigeoners" hurried hither and thither, comparing 
market reports, and soliciting the latest quotations on 
"squabs." A score of hands in the packing-houses were 
kept busy from daylight until dark. Wagon load after 
wagon load of dead and live birds hauled up to the 
station, discharged their freight, and returned to the 
nesting for more. The freight house was filled with 
the paraphernalia of the pigeon hunter's vocation, while 
every train brought acquisitions to their numbers, and 
scores of nets, stool-pigeons, etc. 

The pigeoners were everywhere. They swarmed in 
the hotels, postoffice, and about the streets. They 
were there, as careful Inquiry and the hotel registers 
showed, from New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, 
Michigan, Maryland, Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, Texas, 
Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, and Missouri. 

Hiring a team, we started on a tour of Investigation 
through the nesting. Long before reaching it our course 
was directed by the birds over our heads, flying back 
and forth to their feeding grounds. After riding about 
fifteen miles, we discovered a wagon-track leading into 



84 The Passenger Pigeon 

the woods, in the direction of the bird sounds which 
came to our ears. Three of the party left the wagon 
and followed it; the twittering grew louder and louder, 
the birds more numerous, and in a few minutes we were 
in the midst of that marvel of the forest and Nature's 
wonderland — the pigeon nesting. 

We stood and gazed in bewilderment upon the scene 
around and above us. Was it indeed a fairyland we 
stood upon, or did our eyes deceive us. On every hand, 
the eye would meet these graceful creatures of the for- 
est, which, in their delicate robes of blue, purple and 
brown, darted hither and thither with the quickness of 
thought. Every bough was bending under their weight, 
so tame one could almost touch them, while in every 
direction, crossing and recrossing, the flying birds drew 
a network before the dizzy eyes of the beholder, until 
he fain would close his eyes to shut out the bewildering 
scene. 

This portion of the nesting was the first formed, and 
the young birds were just ready to leave the nests. 
Scarcely a tree could be seen but contained from five 
to fifty nests, according to its size and branches. 
Directed by the noise of chopping and falling trees, 
we followed on, and soon came upon the scene of 
action. 

Here was a large force of Indians and boys at work, 
slashing down the timber and seizing the young birds 
as they fluttered from the nest. As soon as caught, the 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 85 

heads were jerked off from the tender bodies with the 
hand, and the dead birds tossed into heaps. Others 
knocked the young fledghngs out of the nests with long 
poles, their weak and untried wings failing to carry them 
beyond the clutches of the assistant, who, with hands 
reeking with blood and feathers, tears the head off the 
living bird, and throws its quivering body upon the 
heap. 

Thousands of young birds lay among the ferns and 
leaves dead, having been knocked out of the nests by 
the promiscuous tree-slashing, and dying for want of 
nourishment and care, which the parent birds, trapped 
off by the netter, could not give. The squab-killers 
stated that "about one-half of the young birds in the 
nests they found dead," owing to the latter reason. 
Every available Indian, man and boy, in the neighbor- 
hood was in the employ of buyers and speculators, kill- 
ing squabs, for which they received a cent apiece. 

Early in the morning, Len, with his land-looker's 
pack and half-ax, and the writer, started out to "look 
land." Taking the course indicated by the obliging 
small boy, we soon struck into an old Indian trail which 
led us through another portion of the nesting, where 
the birds for countless numbers surpassed all calculation. 
The chirping and noise of wings were deafening and 
conversation, to be audible, had to be carried on at the 
top of our voices. On the shores of the lake where 
the birds go to drink, when flushed by an intruder, the 



86 The Passenger Pigeon 

rush of wings of the gathered millions was like the roar 
of thunder and perfectly indescribable. An hour's 
walk brought us to a ravine which we cautiously 
approached. 

Directed by the commotion in the air, we soon dis- 
covered the bough house and net of the trapper. Evi- 
dence being what we sought, we stood concealed behind 
some bushes to await the spring of the trap. The 
black muck bed soon became blue and purple with 
pigeons lured by the salt and sulphur, when suddenly 
the net was sprung over with a "whiz," retaining hun- 
dreds of birds beneath it, while those outside its limits 
flew to adjacent trees. We now descended from the 
brink of the hill to the net, and there beheld a sickening 
sight not soon forgotten. 

On one side of the bed of a little creek was spread 
the net, a double one, covering an area when thrown, 
of about ten by twenty feet. Through its meshes were 
stretched the heads of the fluttering captives vainly 
struggling to escape. In the midst of them stood a 
stalwart pigeoner up to his knees in the mire and 
bespattered with mud and blood from head to foot. 
Passing from bird to bird, with a pair of blacksmith's 
pincers, he gave the neck of each a cruel grip with his 
remorseless weapon, causing the blood to burst from 
the eyes and trickle down the beak of the helpless cap- 
tive, which slowly fluttered its life away, its beautiful 
plumage besmeared with filth and its bed dyed with its 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 87 

crimson blood. When all were dead, the net was raised, 
many still clinging to its meshes with beak and claws in 
their death grip and were shaken off. They were then 
gathered, counted, deposited behind a log with many 
others and covered with bushes, and the death trap set 
for another harvest. 

Scarcely able to conceal our indignation, we sat upon 
the bank and questioned this hero, learning that he had 
pursued the business for years, and had caught as high 
as 87 dozen in one day, learning later that he caught 
and killed upon that day, 82 dozen, or 984 birds. This 
outrage was perpetrated within 100 rods of the nests 
and in plain hearing of the nesting sounds, instead of 
two miles away, as the law prescribes. After gaining 
some further information, the old gray-headed land- 
looker and his companion withdrew, bidding the pigeon 
pirate good-day, and leaving him none the wiser for 
the visit. Out of sight we worked our way back to 
the road, overtook the stage and returned to Petoskey. 
The next day the writer swore out a warrant and caused 
the arrest of the offender, who could not do other- 
wise than plead guilty, and had the satisfaction of see- 
ing him pay over his fine of $50 for his poor knowledge 
of distances. 

The shooting done at the nesting was In the most 
flagrant violation of the protective laws. The five-mile 
limit was a dead letter. The shotgun brigade went 
where they listed, and shot the birds In the nesting as 



88 The Passenger Pigeon 

they sat in rows on the trees or passed in clouds over- 
head. Before we arrived, a party of four men shot 
826 birds in one day and then only stopping from sheer 
fatigue. Other parties continued the fusillade until the 
guns became so foul they could not be used, and would 
return to the village with a wagon-box full of birds. 
Scores of dead pigeons were left on the grounds to 
decay, and the woods were full of wounded ones. H. 
Prayer, a justice of the peace, informed us that a few 
days previously he had piclced up fifteen maimed birds, 
his neighbor, a Mr. Green, twenty, and a Mr. Cross- 
man, thirty-six, all in one day, after a shooting party 
had passed through. 

The news of the formation of the nesting was not 
long in reaching the various Indian settlements near 
Petoskey, and the aborigines came in tens and fifties and 
in hordes. Some were armed with guns, but the 
majority were provided with powerful bows, and arrows 
with round, flat heads two or three inches in diameter. 
With these they shot under or into the nests, knocked 
out the squabs to the ground, and raked the old birds 
which loaded the branches. For miles the roads leading 
to the nesting were swarming with Indians, big and lit- 
tle, old and young, squaws, pappooses, bucks and young 
braves, on ponies, in carts and on foot. Each family 
brought its kit of cooking utensils, axes, a stock of provi- 
sions, tubs, barrels and firkins to pack the birds in, and 
came intending to carry on the business until the nesting 




UPPER SPECIMEN, PASSENGER PIGEON {Ectopistes Migratorui) 
LOWER SPECIMEN, MOURNING DOVE {Zenaidura Macroura) 

Frequently mistaken for Passenger Pigeon 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 89 

broke up. In some sections the woods were ilterally 
full of them. 

With the aid of Sheriff Ingalls, who spoke their lan- 
guage like a native, we one day drove over 400 Indians 
out of the nesting, and their retreat back to their farms 
would have rivaled Bull Run. Five hundred more 
were met on the road to the nesting and turned back. 
The number of pigeons these two hordes would have 
destroyed would have been incalculable. Noticing a 
handsome bow in the hands of a young Indian, who 
proved to a son of the old chief, Petoskey, a piece of 
silver caused its transfer to us, with the remark, "Keene, 
kensau, mene sic" (now you can go and shoot pigeons) , 
which dusky joke seemed to be appreciated by the rest 
of the young chief's companions. 

There are in the United States about 5,000 men who 
pursue pigeons year after year as a business. Pigeon 
hunters with whom we conversed Incognito stated that 
01 this number there were between 400 and 500 at the 
Petoskey nesting plying their vocation with as many 
nests, and more arriving upon every train from all parts 
of the United States. When It is remembered that 
the village was alive with pigeoners, that nearly every 
house In the vast area of territory covered by the nest- 
ing sheltered one to six pigeon men, and that many 
camped out in the woods, the figures will not seem 
Improbable. Every homesteader In the country who 
owned or could hire an ox team or pair of horses, was 



9© The Passenger Pigeon 

engaged in hauling birds to Petoskey for shipment, for 
which they received $4 per wagon load. To "keep 
peace in the family" and avoid complaint, the pigeon 
men fitted up many of the settlers with nets, and in- 
structed them in the art of trapping. 

Added to these were the buyers, shippers, packers, 
Indians and boys, making not less than 2,000 persons 
(some placed it at 2,500) engaged in the traffic at this 
one nesting. Fully fifty teams were engaged in hauling 
birds to the railroad station. The road was carpeted 
with feathers, and the wings and feathers from the 
packing-houses were used by the wagon load to fill up 
the mud holes in the road for miles out of town. For 
four men to attempt to effect a work, having for oppo- 
nents the entire country, residents and non-residents 
included, was no slight task. 

The majority of the pigeoners were a reckless, hard 
set of men, but their repeated threats that they would 
"buckshot us" if we interfered with them in the woods 
failed to inspire the awe that was intended. It was 
four against 2,000. What was accomplished against 
such fearful odds may be seen by the following : 

The regular shipments by rail before the party com- 
menced operations were sixty barrels per day. On the 
1 6th of April, just after our arrival, they fell to thirty- 
five barrels, and on the 17th down to twenty barrels 
per day, while on the 2 2d the shipments were only eight 
barrels of pigeons. On the Sunday previous there were 



Efforts to Check the Slaughter 91 

shipped by steamer to Chicago 128 barrels of dead birds 
and 108 crates of live birds. On the next Sabbath 
following our arrival the shipments were only forty- 
three barrels and fifty-two crates. Thus it will be seen 
that some little good was accomplished, but that little 
was included in a very few days of the season, for the 
treasury of the home clubs would not admit of keep- 
ing their representatives longer at the nesting, the State 
clubs, save one, did not respond to the call for assist- 
ance, and the men were recalled, after which the Indians 
went back into the nesting, and the wanton crusade was 
renewed by pigeoners and all hands with an energy which 
indicated a determination to make up for lost time. 

The first shipment of birds from Petoskey was upon 
March 22, and the last upon August 12, making over 
twenty weeks, or five months, that the bird war was 
carried on. For many weeks the railroad shipments 
averaged fifty barrels of dead birds per day — thirty 
to forty dozen old birds and about fifty dozen squabs 
being packed in a barrel. Allowing 500 birds to a 
barrel, and averaging the entire shipments for the 
season at twenty-five barrels per day, we find the rail 
shipments to have been 12,500 dead birds daily, or 
1,500,000 for the summer. Of live birds there were 
shipped 1,116 crates, six dozen per crate, or 80,352 
birds. 

These were the rail shipments only, and not including 
the cargoes by steamers from Petoskey, Cheboygan, 



92 The Passenger Pigeon 

Cross Village and other lake ports, which were as many 
more. Added to this were the daily express shipments 
in bags and boxes, the wagon loads hauled away by the 
shotgun brigade, the thousands of dead and wounded 
ones not secured, and the myriads of squabs dead in the 
nest by trapping off of the parent birds soon after hatch- 
ing (for a young pigeon will surely die if deprived of 
its parents during the first week of its life), and we 
have at the lowest possible estimate a grand total of 
1,000,000,000 pigeons sacrificed to Mammon during 
the nesting of 1878. 

The task undertaken in behalf of justice and human- 
ity was a Herculean one, but backed up by such true 
sportsmen as A. H. Mershon and Wm. J. Loveland, 
of East Saginaw, and Judge Holmes, S. A. Van Dusen, 
D. H. Fitzhugh, Jr., and others of Bay City, as well 
as by the sentiment of every humane citizen of the State, 
we could not do other than follow the advice of Davy 
Crockett, and being sure we were right, we decided to 
"go ahead." The question of a wise protection to the 
game and fish of our State is one in which the writer 
holds a deep and fervent interest, and in serving this 
cause, he will swerve from no duty, nor shrink from 
consequences in the discharge of that duty. 

The foregoing article is the result of an honest con- 
viction that the best interests of the State demanded a 
full exposure of the methods by which the pigeon is 
threatened with extinction. 



AMONG THE PIGEONS. 



A Reply to Professor Roney's Aeconnt of 
the mieliigan Nestings of 1878. 



a:. 3ivd:.-^:EeTin^. 



In the Chicago Field, Jan. 25, 1879. 




E. T. Martin's Headquarters at Boyne Falls, Michigan, during the 
Nesting of 1878. 



Fac-simile reproduction of circular, issued 1879, showing E, T. Martin's pigeon 
headquarters at Boyne Falls, Mich. 



CHAPTER IX 
The Pigeon Butcher's Defense 

By E. T. Martin, from the "American Field," Chicago, 
January 25, 1879. 

The preceding chapter by Prof. H. B. Roney in American Field, was 
answered by E. T. Martin, a game dealer of Chicago, who afterwards issued 
a pamphlet, the first page of which is herewith reproduced, and I make 
quite extensive extracts from the body of the circular, which incidentally 
advertises Martin as "the largest dealer in live pigeons for trap shooting 
in the world, also a dealer in guns, glass balls, traps, nets, etc." 

I call the reader's attention to the following: 

In the table given of the shipments from Petoskey and Boyne Falls, 
etc., during 1878, Martin estimates the number shipped alive from 
Cheboygan as 89,730, yet H. T. Phillips of Detroit, shows from his 
records that he alone shipped from that point 175,000 that year. So if 
Martin's estimates are all as far wrong as this one, he should account for 
a total shipment of over 2,000,000 pigeons. 

In Martin's circular, he seems to take offense at some remarks Prof. 
Roney has made in this article that reflect upon the character of these 
netters, for Martin uses in quotation marks the following: "A reckless, 
hard set of men, pirates, etc.," which seems to have some foundation in fact, 
as Martin says: "In proof of the pigeons feeding squab indiscriminately, 
I may mention the fact that one of the men in my employ this year, while 
at the Shelby nesting in 1876 in one afternoon shot and killed six hen 
pigeons that came to feed the one squab in the same nest." Further 
comment is unnecessary. — W. B. M. 

A LITTLE after the middle of March a body 
of birds began nesting some twelve miles north 
of Petoskey, near Pickerel Lake. About April 
8 another and larger body "set in" along Maple and 
Indian Rivers, and Burt Lake, and near Cross Village, 
there being in all some seven or eight distinct nestings, 

93 



94 The Passenger Pigeon 

covering perhaps, of territory actually occupied by the 
nesting, a tract some fifteen miles long and three of 
average width, or forty-five square miles. 

The principal catch was made from the Crooked 
and Maple rivers nestings, and when the former 
"broke," which was about May 25, the pigeoners 
pulled up and left, many going home, and others to 
the Boyne Falls nesting, some thirty miles south, which 
"set In" at about the same time. This gave a duration of 
two and one-third months to the Petoskey nesting proper, 
though It Is true that, feed being abundant, some very 
few birds remained around, roosting for a little longer. 

The Boyne Falls nesting lasted something over a 
month and broke early In July; from this the catch was 
very light. After that, the only catch was a few young 
birds taken "on bait." 

Besides these nestings, there was one further south 
on the Manistee River, some twenty-six miles long by 
five average width, or 130 square miles. In which the 
birds hatched three times, and from which not a bird 
was caught, as It was an Impenetrable swamp, and the 
putting of birds on the market would be attended with 
such expense as to destroy the profit. There were also 
one or two smaller ones, east of this one. These com- 
prised the Michigan nestings. In addition to which, at 
SheflHeld, Pa., there was fully as large a body, and 
fully as large a catch as at the Crooked and Maple 
nestings, the birds hatching there, I think, three times, 



The Pigeon Butcher's Defense 95 

each hatching taking four weeks, from the beginning of 
nest building to the time the old birds leave the young. 
It is true, however, that birds were shipped from 
Petoskey the middle of August, but they were birds 
belonging to me that I was holding there for a market, 
my Chicago pens being full. Every bird of them had 
been in my possession for a month previous, and many 
for six weeks. So the actual pigeon business lasted not 
five months, as Prof. Roney says, but about three; part 
of which time the total catch was not fifty dozen per 
day. 

***** 

They (Prof. Roney et al.) came to Petoskey with a 
great flourish of trumpets, hired expensive livery rigs 
to ride around the country in, made one or two arrests, 
secured one conviction by default, were defeated in 
every case that came to trial, had one of the party play 
the role of "terrible example" in the trout case, and 
then went home, and in the face of the fact that they 
had eaten, or known of having been eaten, hundreds of 
pigeons, and of the certainty that the report was false, 
had published in the Saginaw paper a report that the 
pigeons then being caught in Michigan were feeding on 
poisoned berries, and the using them for food had 
caused much sickness, and in one or two instances loss 
of life. 

This was not only published in the home papers, but 
was telegraphed to New York, Boston, Chicago, St. 



96 The Passenger Pigeon 

Louis and Cincinnati, and marked copies of the notice 
sent to the press of neighboring d''*cs, the avowed object 
being to cause such a decHne in price as to force the 
netters to quit. It was based on the idea that most of 
them were men of small means, and that unless ready 
market offered for their birds, they must give out. The 
effect was to cause a drop in price of fifty cents a dozen 
in New York and Boston in a single day, to cause the 
price in Chicago to decline to twenty cents per dozen, 
and to take the last cent out of the pockets of a hundred 
netters, leaving many who became discouraged and had 
to walk long distances to their homes, dependent on 
chance for even a mouthful to eat. Many, though, 
held out. Telegrams of denial were sent, and the mar- 
ket in a week or two rallied somewhat, though it was a 
month before prices in the East touched the same figure 
as when the "poison-berry" telegrams were received. 
During the week when prices were lowest I refused to 
buy many dead birds offered me at five cents per dozen, 
preferring to lend the netter money, or to advance it 
on his next catch to be saved alive. 

And, by the way, let me say that killing the pigeons 
by pincers is an instantaneous and painless death, the 
neck being broken by a single movement, and the flutter- 
ing spoken of being the same seen in any bird shot 
through the head, or with the head cut off. But had 
the market remained unbroken, had this infamous pois- 
oned berry story never been started, no such net results 



The Pigeon Butcher's Defense 97 

in way of profit would have been reached as Prof. 
Roney says. Under very favorable circumstances, a 
good netter in such a season as we had in 1878, would 
make from $100 to $200, but by far the larger portion 
would not reach $100 over expenses. 

At the Crooked and Maple nestings day In and day 
out the average catch was about twenty dozen per day to 
each net and two men. These sold, except immediately 
after the "poisoned berry story," at from twenty to 
thirty cents per dozen head, at the net, or if the catcher 
was saving alive, in which case his catch would be one- 
third smaller, owing to the trouble of handling the live 
birds, he would get from thirty-five to forty-five cents. 

The principal object in saving them alive was that no 
birds spoiled from warm weather, and at my pens close 
by the nesting they would be received at any hour, while 
to sell dead birds it was necessary to depend on some 
chance buyer or to haul to Petoskey, fourteen miles dis- 
tant. At Boyne Falls prices were a little higher, say 
twenty-five for dead and fifty cents for live, but the 
average catch was not five dozen per day to each net. 
There were exceptions both ways, which went of course 
to make up the average, the most notable being that of 
the 2,000 dozen caught by one party, not in ten days, 
but in twenty, employing two nets and six men. This 
I know, for I was at the net and saw part of the catch- 
ing, while Prof. Roney never got that far. This 2,000 
dozen was shipped East and netted the catchers just 



98 The Passenger Pigeon 

fifteen cents a dozen at the net, or $300 for twenty days' 
work for six men and two nets, while on the other 
hand, during the same time, many better catchers who 
had not been lucky in location hadn't made enough to 
pay for board. Names, locations, etc., can be furnished 
if Prof. Roney desires. 

The Professor then goes on to lament his failure 
before our Emmett County jury. The reason why is 
very simple, he never proved his case. This whole 
pigeon trade was a perfect Godsend to a large portion 
of Emmett County. The land outside of Petoskey is 
taken up by homesteaders, who, between clearing their 
land, scanty crops, poor soil, large families, and small 
capital, are poorer than Job's turkey's prodigal son, 
and in years past have had all they could do fighting 
famine and cold, and but a year or so since all Michigan 
was sending relief to keep them from starving, thou- 
sands of dollars being contributed, and then most har- 
rowing tales being told of need and destitution. 

The "pirates and bummers" left some $35,000 in 
good greenbacks right among the most needy of these 
people. Many were enabled to buy a team, others to 
clear more land, more to increase their crops, and all 
to lay in provisions and clothing to meet the bitter 
winter we are now passing through, and this money did 
more to open up Emmett County than years of ordinary 
work. It put scorces of honest, hard-working home- 
steaders on their feet; it increased trade, and, if sent 



The Pigeon Butcher's Defense 99 

by a special act of Providence, could not have done 
more good. Such being the case, can any blame be 
given an Emmett County jury if they required evidence 
direct and to the point before convicting? And in no 
case that came to trial was direct evidence given. So 
the four true "sportsmen" there in behalf of justice and 
humanity, had such a cold reception from all, that they 
concluded strategy beat that kind of work all to death, 
pulled up stakes and hurried home, and worked up the 
poisoned berry business. 

***** 

Now, about the merciless slaughter. Prof. Roney 
estimates 1,500,000 dead and 80,000 live birds as the 
shipments, and then goes on to say that one billion 
birds have been destroyed ! What logic. 

I have official figures before me, and they show that 
the shipments from Petoskey and Boyne Falls were : 

Petoskey, dead, by express 490,000 

Petoskey, alive, by express 86,400 

Boyne Falls, dead 47,100 

Boyne Falls, alive 42,696 

Petoskey, dead, by boat, estimated 110,000 

Petoskey, alive, by boat, estimated 33)640 

Cheboygan, dead, by boat, estimated 108,300 

Cheboygan, alive, by boat, estimated 89,730 

Other points, dead and alive, estimated 100,000 

Total 1,107,866 



loo The Passenger Pigeon 

This may be set down as accurate or nearly so, and 
1,500,000 will cover the total destruction of birds by 
net, gun and Indians. The total number of nesting 
squabs taken by the Indians would not reach 100,000 
and not over fifty barrels of these ever reached a market, 
the Indians smoking the remainder for winter use. No 
one knows how many birds 1,500,000 are until they 
see them, and handle a few. As an illustration : To buy 
and sell 125,000 birds in four months, it took myself, 
two men and a boy all our time, working from daylight 
until after dark every day. 

I doubt if there were a billion birds in all the 
Crooked and Maple nestings. I am certain that there 
were not at any one time. I am also certain that more 
than double as many young birds left those nestings 
than all the birds caught, killed or destroyed. The 
morning that the Crooked nesting broke, I was out at 
daylight, and at the net to see and help one of my men 
make a strike; for an hour and a half a continuous 
body of birds half a mile wide and very thick was 
going out; our strike was twenty-nine dozen, twenty- 
five dozen young and four dozen old, about the same 
proportion as the other catchers. This showed that of 
the immense body over five-sixths were young birds, 
barely old enough ones remaining to guide the body of 
young, and this was out of the nesting from which the 
bulk of the birds had been caught, where the destruction 
had been the greatest. When it is considered that the 



The Pigeon Butcher's Defense loi 

Manistee birds hatched three times unmolested, that 
there was a body several times larger there, than at 
the Crooked and Maple, and that many from each body 
went further north entirely out of reach and nested 
at least once, possibly twice again, some idea may be 
formed of the immense addition to the army of pigeons 
from the Michigan nestings of 1878. Many more 
young birds left the Crooked River nesting alone, than 
all, old or young, destroyed during the entire season's 
pigeoning. 

Prof. Roney's lament about the young dying when 
deprived of the parent bird, and his addition to the 
number "sacrificed to Mammon" from that source, 
compares favorably with the poisoned berry story, 
or the attack on Turner. Admitting that 1,500,000 
birds were caught and killed, not more than half of 
these would be old birds, some of which would not be 
nesting, and from some of which the young had left 
the nest. If for every one of the 750,000 old birds 
caught and killed, the squab had died, this would make 
a total slaughter of 2,250,000, or about one four hun- 
dred and fiftieth of the number he says. 

I don't believe Prof. Roney knows what a billion is. 
However, there were not 750,000, no, nor 100,000 
squabs killed by losing their parents. It Is a well- 
proved fact that the old bird coming In will stop and 
feed any squab heard crying for food, that In this way 
they look out for one another's young, and the orphans 



I02 The Passenger Pigeon 

or half-orphans are cared for. It is rare, however, for 
both old birds to be caught or killed, since the toms 
and hens when nesting always fly separately, and the 
chance of both the parents of the squab falling a "victim 
to Mammon," particularly in a large nesting, is small. 
As proof of the pigeons feeding squabs indiscriminately, 
I may mention that one of the men in my employ this 
year, at the Shelby nesting in 1876, in one afternoon 
shot and killed six hen pigeons that came to feed the 
one squab in the same nest. 



Why, Prof. Roney, the catch went on all the same, 
your party made no difference of note, but the weather 
was rough and somewhat stormy; the birds didn't 
"stool" well, and during the days mentioned the catch 
was very small, hence the decrease in shipments. Now, 
regarding the law, it is well enough as it is; one shot- 
gun near a nesting is more destructive than a dozen 
nets; the report of the gun causes the birds to rise in 
thousands, and, when repeated, to leave in a body, 
regardless of nest or squab, and never to return; as an 
example, may be mentioned, the Minnesota nesting of 
1877, when the birds were driven entirely away. 

The net is silent; its work occasions no alarm; It 
makes no cripples, consequently it can be admitted 
nearer to the nests than its more noisy partner. Protect 
the pigeons entirely, and a law forbidding catching dur- 



The Pigeon Butcher's Defense 103 

ing nesting time is equivalent to entire protection, and 
you have northern Michigan overrun with a pest that 
will destroy the farmer's seed as fast as sown, and when 
harvest time approaches, pounce upon a wheat field 
ready for the reaper and in an hour not leave even 
enough for the gleaner. Their increase would be more 
rapid, their stay longer, and in four years not only 
would the law be repealed, but inducements to slaughter 
would be held out to rid the State of the rapidly increas- 
ing and destructive pests. 

The pigeon never will be exterminated so long as 
forests large enough for their nestings and mast enough 
for their food remain. 

In conclusion, the pigeons are as much an article of 
commerce as wheat, corn, hogs, beeves, or sheep. It 
is no more cruel to kill them for market by the thousand, 
than it is to countenance the killing at the stock yards 
in this or any other large commercial center. The paper 
to-night shows that in six cities over four million hogs 
have been killed since Nov. i, 1878, or two and a 
half months, a larger slaughter than, during the same 
time, of pigeons at the nestings by nearly threefold. 
Yet this is not "sacrificing to Mammon." A farmer 
can market his poultry dead or alive at any time of 
the year, and the slaughter, the country over. Is larger 
than that of pigeons, yet no one In the interest of "jus- 
tice and humanity" Interferes. 

The pigeon Is migratory-, it can care for Itself. It 



I04 The Passenger Pigeon 

nests in the impenetrable wilds of Arkansas, the Indian 
Territory, Canada and British America, as often as in 
the land of civilization where it can be reached for 
market. It is a source of profit to the poor, or pleasure 
to the rich. Its benefits to the Emmett County home- 
steaders, as felt through the cold of this winter alone, 
are enough to compensate for evils even as black as our 
Prof. Roney paints, and Emmett County is but a sample 
of whatever location the birds may settle in. 

Let the law, in regard to distance, stand as it is. 
Enforce it against all alike; make no exceptions; let 
the rule of supply and demand govern the catchings, and 
you will have something better than all the professors 
in Michigan suggest. Let the supply be so large that 
prices are low and wages can't be made, and law or no 
law, the catching will stop. But don't make a law that 
will take bread out of the homesteader's mouth, and 
work from hundreds of poor and honest men; no, not 
even if the birds should be sacrificed, to a certain extent, 
for man is above the beasts, and the "beasts of the field 
and the birds of the air" are given unto him for his 
benefit and his profit. 



CHAPTER X 
Notes of a Vanished Industry 

I have corresponded with many men who were actively interested in 
hunting and observing the Passenger Pigeon when its flocks still numbered 
uncounted millions of birds. Some of the data supplied in kind response 
to my queries is in the form of hastily jotted notes, which, when they are 
brought together, include more or less repetition of personal experiences. 
They have a certain value, however, when taken en masse, for they are the 
testimony of eye-witnesses who will soon be gone, after which the Pas- 
senger Pigeon will become as much a matter of written history and tradition 
as the auk or the buffalo. 

I am under obligation to Mr. Henry T. Phillips, of Detroit, for much 
practical information regarding the capture of pigeons, and the business of 
marketing them as he knew it in those earlier days. There follows a 
portion of a letter written me by Mr. Phillips in October, 1904. — W. B. M. 

I AM In receipt of your letter asking for informa- 
tion about the wild pigeon, but I do not know 
that I can be of much benefit to you, though I will 
give you what information I can. 

I began business in Cheboygan, Mich., in May, 
1862, as a dealer in groceries and produce and added 
the commission business a little later, as I was fond of 
shooting, and I began advertising the sale of game. I 
have been credited by dealers in New York with being 
the largest shipper of venison in the United States. In 
1864 (I think it was) I had a shipment of live wild 
pigeons which we brought down the Cheboygan River 

105 



io6 The Passenger Pigeon 

from Black Lake in crates holding six dozen each. All 
of these crates were made by hand by one E. Osborn, 
who was then one of the traveling pigeon catchers, the 
firm being Osborn & Thompson, well known by all men 
who traveled then. From that time I have handled live 
pigeons in quantities up to 175,000 per year until they 
left the country. The last nesting in Michigan was up 
on Crooked Lake near Petoskey in 1878, I believe, from 
which I shipped 150,000. 

In 1866, they nested in the town of Vassar, Tiscola 
County, Mich., and usually each alternate year, as 
the mast crop was every second season, beech nuts being 
their choice food. The other years they nested in Wis- 
consin on acorns, or in Minnesota, feeding on spring 
wheat. New York sometimes held them, and Pennsyl- 
vania often, for a nesting; but being a hard place they 
never caught many there, Michigan being the favorite 
trapping ground. 1874 there was a nesting at Shelby, 
Oceana County, Mich., on which it was estimated they 
made the heaviest catches I have ever known of: 100 
barrels daily on an average of thirty days of dead birds, 
besides the live ones, of which I shipped 175,000. 

There were five nestings that year in the State, three 
going on at the same time, but all not heavily worked. 
That year I shipped by the steamer Fountain City, from 
Frankfort, 478 coops, six dozen each, one shipment 
going to Oswego, N. Y., for the Leather Stocking Club 
Tournament. 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 107 



I bought from Dr. Slyfield 600 dozen at $1 per 
dozen, agreeing to pay only in one-hundred-dollar bills. 
He traveled two days to get twelve dozen to make up 
the shortage. The pigeons at that time wintered in 
southern Missouri and the Indian Nation, and were 
shot at night by natives and marketed in St. Louis. As 
they fed on pine-oak acorns, which tainted the meat, 
the market was poor and prices low. The traveling 
netters usually worked at something else while South. 

The pigeons started north about the last of March, 
and usually located the last of May, according to 
weather. If food was plentiful they nested in large 
bodies; if not, they divided and nested in fewer num- 
bers. In Wisconsin I have seen a continual nesting for 
100 miles, with from one to possibly fifty nests on every 
oak scrub. 

In Michigan usually the feeding grounds were across 
the straits, where blueberries were abundant, until fall, 
when the birds scattered back in small bodies, feed- 
ing on stubble and elm seed. Frequently they would 
go into a roosting place, and make it a home for weeks 
before leaving for the South. Traveling north, they 
usually flew until about ten or eleven in the morning 
and again in the evening. I have known of large quan- 
tities being drowned in Lake Huron, crossing from 
Canada on the way north, and have had lake captains 
tell me of passing for three hours through dead birds, 
which had been caught in a fog. 



io8 The Passenger Pigeon 

In 1874 there were over six hundred professional net- 
ters, and when the pigeons nested north, every man and 
woman was either a catcher or a picker. They used 
to catch them in different ways. What was known as 
flight-catching was in the early morning and evening, a 
spot being cleared of usually twelve to sixteen feet wide 
and twenty to twenty-four feet long, large enough for a 
net. This was known as the bed. About fifty feet from 
the bed a brush house was built and the net was staked 
down, two spring poles were set to spring the net out 
straight, but loose enough to fall easy and cover the 
full size of the bed. The front line of the net was tied 
to these stakes and they were sprung or set back as If 
all of the net was in a roll. A short stake with a line 
attached to the outside edge ran to the bough house, a 
stick about three feet long was placed under a catch 
called the hub, and the other end of this stick was placed 
against another peg driven In the ground. When the 
short stick was pulled from underneath the crotch, the 
spring poles forced the net over the bed; the short 
sticks raised the net about three feet; and of course it 
was all done very quickly. 

Another method was employed later In the season; 
a place was baited with buckwheat, sometimes with 
broomcorn seed, or wheat, for a week or two, and, when 
a large body of birds was collected, the net was set. 
A much larger net Is used now. Then Is when we got 
our live birds for shooting matches. In the spring 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 109 



time is money, and the netters could save many more 
dead than ahve. 

I knew of a man paying $300 for the privilege of 
netting on one salt spring near White River. It was a 
spring dug for oil, boarded up sixteen feet square. He 
cut it down a little and built a platform, and caught 
once or twice each week. He got 300 dozen at one 
haul in this house. He said they were piled there three 
feet deep. 

I once pulled a net on a bait bed and we saved 
132 dozen alive, but many got out from underneath the 
net, there being too many on the bed. The net used 
was 28x36 feet. I have lost 3,000 birds in one day 
because the railroad did not have a car ready on the 
date promised. I threw away what cost me $250 in 
eight hours, fat birds, because the weather was too 
hot. I have bought carloads in Wisconsin at 15 and 25 
cents per dozen, but in Michigan we usually paid from 
50 cents to $1 a dozen. I have fed thirty bushels of 
shelled corn daily at $1.20 per bushel, and paid out 
from $300 to $600 per day for pigeons. 

I never allowed game to be shipped to me out of 
season; if it came, I never paid for it. 

About tv\^o years ago I was told by a man who just 
got back from the Northwest, Calgary, that the birds 
were so thick in the north that they darkened the sun. 
They were probably nesting, as he said they were seen 
every morning. . . . Up to ten years ago I was 



iio The Passenger Pigeon 

shooting on the Mississippi bayous for twenty-five years, 
and used to see and kill some pigeons nearly every 
spring, from the middle of March to the middle of 
April. We have shot seventy-two pounds of powder in 
my camp In thirty days, the party consisting of three 
men ; and two of us have killed twelve barrels of ducks 
(Mallards) In four days. On the Detroit River I have 
shot, in one week, mostly redheads, the following on 
different days: 102, 119, 142, 155. 

[I have quoted from the latter part of Mr. Phillips' 
letter to show how plentiful other kinds of birds were 
in the old days.] 

Under date of Nov. i, 1904, Mr. Phillips writes 
as follows: 

"In regard to dates, would say that the last nesting 
of birds set In at about 5 P.M., May 5, 1878, on the 
southeast side of Crooked Lake. Express charges on 
barrels to New York from Michigan were $6.50, from 
Wisconsin $8; on live birds $3 per cwt." 

Mr. Phillips also Incloses a letter written to him by 
Mr. Osborn, of Alma, Mich., under date of February 
23, 1898, which reads: 

Alma, Mich., February 23, 1898. 
Friend H. T. Phillips: 

Yours with the questions to be answered received, 
and will say: 

There have been several bodies nesting In 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 1 1 i 

Michigan at the same time, and I will give the years 
and places that I was out. In 1861 a large body of 
birds were in Ohio roosting in the Hocking Hills, my 
first year out. We were at Circleville, and my company 
shipped over 225 barrels, mostly to New York and 
Boston. The birds fed on the corn fields. In 1862 
the birds nested at Monroe, Wis. We commenced 
in May and remained until the last of August. 
The several companies put up some ten thousand dozen 
for stall feeding after the freight shipment. Express 
charges on each barrel were from $7 to $9. In the 
fall of 1862 we had fine sport shooting birds in the roost 
at Johnstown, Ohio (now Ada), some four weeks. 
Then the birds moved to Logan County. After two 
weeks the birds skipped South, it being December and 
snow on the ground. 

In 1863 the birds nested in Pennsylvania. We had 
some fine sport at Smith Port and at Sheffield. We 
located at Cherry Grove, six miles from Sheffield. The 
birds fed on hemlock mast. There were other nestings 
In Pennsylvania at the same time. In 1864, at St. 
Charles, Minn., we had some fine sport, but our freights 
were high to New York, so we came to Leon, Wis. A 
heavy body was nesting in the Kickapoo woods, and sev- 
eral companies of hunters located here. In 1865 a 
heavy nesting was in Canada, near Georgian Bay. We 
were at Angus Station on the Northern Railroad, and 
the snow was two feet under the nesting. We next went 



112 The Passenger Pigeon 

to Wisconsin, where a heavy snowstorm broke up the 
roosts. We were at Afton, Brandon and Appleton. 
We then went to Rochester, Minn., the end of the rail- 
road. At that time birds nested In the Chatfield timber. 
We then went to Marquette in the Upper Peninsula and 
camped on Dead River. A heavy body had got through 
nesting, but worlds of birds were feeding on blueberries. 

This was the year the Pewabic sunk. Mr. George 
Snook had 1,400 barrels of trout and whitefish on her. 
We went up on the Old Traveler and came down on the 
Meteor. In 1866 the birds nested in a heavy body 
near Martinsville, Ind. We caught some birds at Car- 
tersburg. After we closed up in Indiana we went to 
Pennsylvania. There was a heavy nesting near Wilcox, 
at Highlands. In gathering squabs five of us got a 
barrel apiece, which netted us $75 to $100 per barrel 
in New York. They struck a bare market. 

In July we had a big time with young birds at Fort 
Gratiot, near Port Huron, from the Forestville nest- 
ing. Mr. H. T. Phillips of Detroit was chief of a 
party which had fine shooting on a Mr. Palmer's place. 
In six days I shipped thirteen barrels to Tremain & 
Summer, New York, and received a check for over 
$400. They returned me about one-half what they 
sold for. 

In 1867 we were In Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, 
and caught more or less birds on bait. The birds were 
broken up by shooting and deep snow. In 1868 there 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 1 1 3 

was a large nesting near Manistee, and we did some big 
catching, shipped by steamer to Grand Haven, then 
via rail. In April and May was also at Mackinac and 
North Port and in June did some catching at Cheboy- 
gan, and here I made our crates of split cedar and 
floated the birds down the river six miles on two canoes 
lashed together, and had to transfer over the dam be- 
fore reaching the little steamer to Mackinac, twelve 
miles, and then transferred to the Detroit boat. The 
birds were shipped to H. T. Phillips & Co, At Che- 
boygan I fed over one hundred bushels of corn and 
wheat for bait. 

In 1869 the birds were in Canada, Michigan, Indi- 
ana and Wisconsin, all at the same time, and shooters 
broke them up. We located a body at Oakfield, Wis., 
and had a big catch until the farmers broke them up. 
The birds were pulling wheat badly; other feed was 
gone. The birds nested in Michigan, up from Mt. 
Pleasant, but too far Inland to get them out. In 1870 
the birds nested near Goderich, Can. Did not do much 
there. We then went to Glen Haven and caught some 
birds. Then we went to Cheboygan; sent more or less 
live birds to H. T. Phillips & Co., of Detroit. In 
1 871 we located a large body at Tomah, Wis., and did 
some heavy shipping. We used three tiers of Ice from 
a large icehouse, and the express per barrel was $12 to 
New York and Boston. We also shipped from Au- 
gusta, Wis,, express, $13.50 per barrel. A nesting at 



114 The Passenger Pigeon 

Eau Claire, but we could not get to do much with them 
there. In 1872 a large nesting near South Haven, 
Mich. We located at Bangor and had a big catch in 
some big snowstorms. Another body near Clam Lake, 
end of railroad. In 1873 we did baiting in Ohio and 
Wisconsin, but located no nesting. In 1874 the birds 
nested at Shelby in two different locations and another 
at Stanton, Mich.; small body at Stanton. We did 
heavy shipping at Shelby, from one to three cars per 
day, both alive and dead. The birds nested this year 
at Shelby, two places, and at Stanton, and one at Mill 
Brook and at Frankfort and at Leeland, and probably 
at other points we did not learn of. In 1875 was not 
out, only baiting near St. Johns, Mich. In 1876 a 
heavy nesting at Shelby, Mich., and at Frankfort. I 
caught at Shelby and at Glen Haven heavy shipments. 
In 1877 was not out, but did some baiting at Eureka. 
In 1878 a heavy nesting between Petoskey and Cheboy- 
gan. H. T. Phillips located at Cheboygan. I caught 
at several points between the two cities. 

The above is part of my experience with the birds, 
since which time I have kept no record of the move- 
ments, but will say that during the winter season birds 
have nested in large numbers in the southern States; 
in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. For 
a great many years the birds have been moving west. 
Last winter I was in Southern California, and a body 
of pigeons were west of Los Angeles, among the acorn 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 1 1 5 

timber. There are worlds of feed In the foothills, for 
thousands of miles, to feed the birds. They are a 
greedy bird and will eat everything from a hemlock 
seed to an acorn. I have known them to nest on hem- 
lock mast alone In Pennsylvania, and in Michigan on 
the pine mast after the beech mast was gone. Most 
of the nesting In Michigan happens March to July, 
and then they skip farther north and return in wheat 
seeding. 

Alma, Mich., February 24, 1898. 
Friend H. T. Phillips : 

I will give you a few catches. In 1862, at Monroe, 
Wis., George Paxon, of Evans Center, N. Y., and 
myself made one haul of 250 dozen five miles south of 
the city on corn bait in a pen 32x64 feet with nets 
sprung across the top. We fed at this bed over five 
hundred bushels of corn at 25 cents per bushel, and at 
our other beds nearly as much. After the flight-birds 
were over, with a single net sprung on the ground we 
have taken 100 dozen at a time. 

At Augusta, Wis., in 1871, Charles Curtin, then of 
Indiana (dead now), over one hundred dozen; Will- 
iam W. Cone of Masonville, N. Y., Samuel Schook of 
Circleville, Ohio, and some other boys, 100 dozen and 
over. L. G. Parker of Camden, N. Y., C. S. Martin, 
the Rocky Mountain hunter of Wisconsin, E. G. Slay- 
ton of Chetek, Wis., are old trappers and could tell of 



1 1 6 The Passenger Pigeon 

big catches. In 1868, at Cheboygan, I took over six 
hundred fat birds before sunrise. I sold to the United 
States officers at Mackinac for trap shooting, also to 
Island House. In 1861 there were only a few profes- 
sionals: Dr. E. Osborn of Saratoga, N. Y; William N. 
Cone, Masonville, N. Y; John Ackerman, Columbus, 
Ohio; L. G. Parke, Camden, N. J.; James Thompson, 
Hookset, N. H. ; S. K. Jones, Saratoga, N. Y. ; George 
and Charles Paxon of Evans Center, N. Y., and maybe 
a few others. After this time, trappers increased fast. 
More salt was used in Michigan for bait than any other 
State. I paid at Shelby $4 per barrel. Big bodies of 
pigeons were drowned off Sleeping Bear Point because 
of fog and wind, while trying to cross Lake Michigan. 
I have seen them. 

In the Logan County roost, Ohio, I killed with two 
barrels, of a six-bore shoulder gun, 144 birds. The 
other boys killed nearly as many with smaller guns; 
we shot on the roost in the dark. Our plan was to fire 
one barrel on the roost and the other as the pigeons 
flew. The highest price paid per dozen was in New 
York City — $3 — by Trimm & Summer from Penn- 
sylvania. 

For a good many years the birds were in the eastern 
States, with heavy catching in Massachusetts and New 
York, also Pennsylvania, and the hunters worked into 
Canada, then into Ohio, and so on to Michigan and 
Indiana, long before they took in Wisconsin and Minne- 



Notes of a Vanished Industry 1 1 7 

sota, after they left the eastern country for the west. 
A big body was at Grand Rapids in 1858 or 1859, 
before I joined the band. 

The trappers at Grand Rapids were Dr. Osborn, 
Cone, Ackerman, the two Faxons, Latimer, and a few 
others, who did some heavy shipping, catching the birds 
on the salt marshes. I have no earlier records for 
Michigan, 

I kept no record of the amounts shipped from dif- 
ferent points. The old books of the express will show 
if they have kept them. I wait to see your report, and 
remain, Yours truly, 

E. Osborn. 

Detroit, Mich., November 2, 1904. 
W. B. Mershon: 

Dear Sir: — Last evening I looked over some old 
papers and found a few memoranda that lead to my 
making some changes in my notes to you in regard to 
the date of last nestings in our State. I also find my 
later surmise confirmed by a letter from one of the first 
traveling pigeon-catchers in the business, Ephraim Os- 
born, whose uncle, Dr. Osborn of Saratoga, N. Y., was 
one of the original catchers. You will note by Mr. 
Osborn's letter that he has been a shipper of mine for 
a long time, I am well acquainted with him and knew 
all the men he mentioned (with many others) at the 
Shelby nesting. There were nearly six hundred names 



1 1 8 The Passenger Pigeon 

in the register book of pigeoners in Wisconsin. Nearly 
every one of the farmers, and their wives and daugh- 
ters, were pigeon catchers. 

In regard to the dates of last nesting: 1878 was the 
last year that the catch amounted to enough to keep 
men in the business. I find I was at Cheboygan part 
of the time, and got only a small number of birds in 
1880, but some few nested (small body) that year. 

Yours truly, 

H. T. Phillips. 



CHAPTER XI 
Recollections of "Old Timers" 

MR. OSCAR B. WARREN, now of Hough- 
ton, Mich., has been interested for years in 
collecting data about the Passenger Pigeon, 
and kindly turned over to me his entire budget. Among 
his letters is the following from Mr. H. T. Blodgett, 
Superintendent of Public Schools, Ludington, Mich., 
dated November 19, 1904: 

Your pigeon is a stranger to me, or rather 
has been a stranger for six or more years. I can dis- 
tinctly remember clouds of them, darkening the sky, 
almost, in Pennsylvania, thirty years ago. Later, in 
Michigan, they were abundant, coming to this part of the 
State as soon as the snow was gone, picking up the 
beech nuts and "shack" of the woods. After a few 
weeks' flying about and feeding they would disappear; 
reappearing again in June, young pigeons, fat, and the 
choicest eating. They would stay a few weeks, not 
more than about three weeks, going about July i. 
During this visit the birds haunted the thick woods, 
and would call from the shade of the leaves of beech, 
maple, and hemlock trees through the heat of the day, 

119 



I20 



The Passenger Pigeon 



feeding mornings and evenings on the sprouted beech 
nuts under the leaves. 

There would often be a third appearance in Sep- 
tember, when I have seen buckwheat fields blue with 
them. Also fall-sowed wheat fields would be so covered 
with them that the farmer had to watch his fields to 
save the seed he had sowed. 

During the spring and also the fall visit, flocks 
searching for feeding ground could be called down 
from flight and induced to light on trees near where the 
call was sounded. The call was one in imitation of 
the pigeon's own call, given either as a peculiar throat 
sound (liable to make the throat sore if too often re- 
peated) or with a silk band between two blocks of 
wood, like this 




The pigeon call 



held between the lips and teeth and blown like a blade 
of grass between the thumbs. By biting or pressing 
with thp teeth at (A) (A) the tension upon the silk 
band would be increased, raising the tone of the call or 
relaxing for a lower note. Cleverly used, it was very 
successful In calling pigeons feeding in small flocks to 
alight. 



Recollections of "Old Timers'* 121 

Much to my regret I have seen none of the beautiful 
birds for about six years. The savage warfare upon 
them, from nesting place to nesting place by pot-hunters 
and villainous fellows who barreled them for market, 
with nets and every brutal means for wholesale destruc- 
tion, has driven them, I know not whither. If there are 
considerable flocks of them anywhere, I should be glad 
to know it. 

I wish I might help you. Such things as are here 
hastily recalled and written will not be likely to afford 
anything of interest, but if there is any thought or any- 
thing in it, it is cheerfully given. 

On the great sand bluffs which line our shores in many 
places, flocks of pigeons in passing would fly so low 
that a man with a club could knock them down. At 
Lincoln, three miles north of here, nets were put on the 
top of the hills, like gill nets, to catch them in their 
flight. 

They were never very successful. 




Showing the method of placing pigeon net 



122 The Passenger Pigeon 



{Notes by the Allen Brothers, Joseph and Isaac, of 
Manchester, Mich. A copy of their letter was re- 
ceived through kindness of L. Whitney fVatkins, of 
Matichester, Mich.) 

We have had about fifty years' experience in the 
business [pigeon catching], as we used to help our 
father as long ago as we can recollect, he being one of 
the best pigeoners in his day, working a great deal at 
the business in the summer season. Until we were 
twenty years old we lived on the shores of Lake Ontario 
in Wayne County, N. Y. 

The pigeons used to have a flying course along the 
shore of the lake on their way to the Montezuma 
marshes after salt. Pigeons are very fond of salt, or, 
rather, brine. It seems to be a necessary article for 
them. Their course was generally from west to east. 
They seldom flew west by the same route. How far 
they came, we could not tell; perhaps from this State 
or perhaps farther west. Sometimes they would go 
west by the same route. If so, they were much easier 
to catch than when going east. When going east they 
were looking for salt; when west, for food. 

They used to commence to fly about the ist of April 
and keep it up until the middle of June. After that 
time they would scatter over the country, and did not 
fly in large flocks as in the spring. 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 123 

It would be hard to make any estimate of their num- 
bers that people would believe at this late day. I was 
going to say that a thousand million could have been 
seen in the air all at once. There would be days and 
days when the air was alive with them, hardly a break 
occurring in a flock for half a day at a time. Flocks 
stretched as far as a person could see, one tier above 
another. I think it would be safe to say that millions 
could have been seen at the same time. 

In the year 1854 we moved to Michigan, settling 
near Adrian, where we found pigeons quite plentiful. 
When they were flying here (Adrian) they seemed to 
scatter over the State, having no regular course. 

The supply of pigeons kept very regular here for 
about twenty-five or thirty years. About the time we 
came west the pigeons became scarce in New York, 
and very few have been seen there since. It is five 
years (1890) since we have seen or heard of any being 
seen in this State (Michigan) or in any other. 

Our "pigeoning" was more for sport than profit, 
and we liked a nice broiled pigeon for breakfast about 
as well as anything we could have, especially when they 
were worth $6.00 per dozen. If the pigeons had been 
sent to the New York market they could have been sold 
for big prices, as pigeons sold for larger and better 
prices than any other game in that market. Our father 
did not like the Idea of sending pigeons to New York 
for a market. 



124 The Passenger Pigeon 

After we came to where we now live (Cambridge), 
and when I was going to Adrian, I stopped at father's 
on my road. He had been out catching pigeons that 
morning and had secured 600 by 10 o'clock. He said 
to me: 

"I wish you would take these pigeons to Adrian and 
sell them if you can. Take them to the depot and sell 
them for 10 cents per dozen. If you cannot sell them, 
give them to the workingmen in the shops." 

I thought 10 cents was pretty cheap, so I went to sell- 
ing at 20 cents per dozen. When the men came out of 
the work-shops I sold them all at 25 cents per dozen. 
After I left for town, father caught 500 more, and took 
them to Adrian the same day and sold them for 10 
cents per dozen. If the same lot of pigeons had been 
shipped to New York, they would probably have 
brought $2 or more per dozen. 

About a year from that time we caught 600 in one 
day, and made up our minds we would ship them to 
New York. We took them to Adrian to ship. When 
we got to Adrian we saw father, who, after inquiring 
about our intentions concerning their shipment, said: 

"It is foolish for you to send them, as they will never 
be heard from." 

He advised us to dispose of them for 25 cents per 
dozen; this was the highest price pigeons were worth 
in Adrian. To please him we tried to sell them for that 
price, but could not, so, taking them to the express 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 125 

office, we shipped them. In about four days the returns 
came, netting us 70 cents per dozen, about the lowest 
price we ever got. They explained that the pigeons 
had been poorly handled or they would have brought 
more. This was thirty-five years ago, and these were 
probably the first pigeons shipped from this State to 
New York. 

We have shipped thousands since. They would 
probably average $2 per dozen. We have sold them as 
high as $3.75 per dozen and have seen them quoted as 
high as $6 per dozen. A pigeoner from Pennsylvania 
told us he shipped two barrels at one time and got $5.50 
per dozen. We caught 2,400 one week, having them 
all on hand at one time. We got a market report from 
New York where they were quoted at $6.50 per dozen. 
We packed and shipped ours as soon as possible. When 
they reached market they sold for $1.50 per dozen. 
The army of pigeoners had struck a big nesting In the 
State of Wisconsin the same week we caught ours, and 
they shipped them to market by the wholesale. The 
market dropped from $6.50 to $1.25 in one week. 

The pigeon business was very profitable for men 
who were used to it, and there were probably from one 
to three hundred men in the trade. When the pigeons 
changed their location, the pigeoners would follow 
them, sometimes going over a thousand miles. 

When this army of men had good luck they would 
ship them by the hundreds of barrels. Probably 



126 The Passenger Pigeon 

as many as five hundred barrels have been shipped to 
New York and Boston in one day. Our commission 
man in New York wrote us that lOO barrels a day 
could be sold there without affecting the market but 
very little. 

I was at a pigeon nesting In the State of Pennsyl- 
vania where there were from three to five hundred men 
catching pigeons and squabs. It was a great sight to 
see the birds going back and forth after food. When 
nesting in such large bodies, they leave the food in 
the near vicinity for their young. If they can find 
plenty of food, they nest in large bodies; if not, they 
scatter over the country and nest In scattered colonies. 

The nesting I mentioned In Pennsylvania was within 
one mile of the cleared lands. We camped within two 
miles of the nesting. The pigeons kept up a continual 
roaring by their combined twittering and cooing, so 
that it could be heard for miles away by night as well 
as day. 

Sometimes It Is almost Impossible to catch the pigeons. 
At the nesting mentioned the most experienced hands 
found It impossible to take large numbers. The whole 
crowd of men could not catch more than one man ought 
to have caught under the circumstances. 

The young pigeons (squabs) were much sought after 
In New York and Boston, and If sent In moderate num- 
bers brought big prices, usually about two dollars per 
dozen. When the squabs were old enough to market, 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 127 

the army of pigeoners (estimated to be about five hun- 
dred) commenced taking them. Entering the woods in 
which the nesting was located, they cut down the trees 
right and left, cutting the timber over thousands of 
acres. When a tree fell, bringing with it the squabs, 
they picked the young birds up, sometimes getting as 
many as two dozen from one tree. The large trees, 
which might have yielded fifty or a hundred, were left 
standing. Our company of five took in two days thir- 
teen barrels of squabs, averaging 400 to the barrel. 

There were shipped from two stations on the Erie 
road in one day 200 barrels of these young pigeons. 
If they had been old birds, they would not have broken 
the market, but this was too many squabs, and the price 
dropped 25 to 45 cents per dozen. 

Osborn told me that he once caught 3,500 at one 
catch. It was at a big nesting in the State of Wisconsin. 
He had an enormous flock baited. He said that he put 
out as high as forty bushels of shelled corn at one time 
on the bed where he caught this large number. For 
a trap, he had constructed a board pen built up from 
the ground four or five feet high. This pen was about 
one hundred feet long by twenty feet wide. He took 
three large-sized nets, and, tying them together, set 
them on this pen. He had feeding pens built by the 
side of the trap-pen, so when he made a catch he could 
drive the pigeons into the feeding pens and fatten them 
for market, these "stall-fed" birds bringing much 



128 The Passenger Pigeon 



higher prices than poor birds. This large catch filled 
all his feeding pens. He said he )uld have made 
another catch fully as large as the one just mentioned, 
in one-half hour afterward but, having no room, he 
could not take care of any more. 

This method of catching pigeons was much the best 
when they were to be preserved ahve. It was rather a 
late invention in the pigeon-netting business. We have 
caught with one net in the same way as many as four 
hundred at one time. With a net set on the ground 
we have taken from three to five hundred a great many 
times. In this latter manner, a brother of mine caught 
^^6 with one net. Without help, in one day I have 
caught from thirteen to fourteen hundred out of a flock 
as they were flying over. 

We have two ways of pigeoning. One is catching 
out of flocks as they are flying over; the other is catch- 
ing baited pigeons. One way of bringing the flocks 
out of the air was by using live pigeons kept for that 
purpose. These we called "fliers" and "stool-pigeons;" 
generally from three to five fliers and two stool-pigeons. 
For the "fliers" and "stools" we made what we called 
"boots" of soft leather. These were slipped on the 
leg a little above the foot. To the boots of the fliers 
were fastened small stout cords from two to four rods 
long, on the other end of which was fastened a small 
bush. If the birds were flying high, we used a longer 
string. 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 129 

The stool-pigeons were fastened to stools and set on 
the "bed"; when the net was sprung the birds were 
under it. The bed over which the net was sprung was 
the same size as the net, or from thirty to forty feet 
long by twelve to fifteen feet wide. It was made by 
clearing the ground of all rubbish, and making it as clean 
as a garden. Before the net was set it covered the bed. 
We tied a rope to each of the front corners. On the 
front side we used two spring stakes fastened in the 
ground at the ends of the ropes, which were tied to the 
stake about five feet from the ground. At one of the 
stakes we built a bough house so that the rope from 
the net would pass through the house. The back cor- 
ners were fastened with small, notched stakes which 
were driven in the ground so that the notches faced the 
bough house. We used w^hat we called "flying staffs" 
— small stakes about four feet long and the thickness 
of a broom handle, with a notch cut in one end. We 
also used two more small stakes to set the flying staffs 
against, to hold the net when set. It took two to 
properly set a net. Each one took a staff, stepped in 
front, one at each corner, caught hold of the rope, and 
crowded the front edge back of the back edge about six 
inches. Then the flying staffs were placed against 
the small stakes, notch end against the ropes. The net 
was now crowded to the ground and the staffs slipped 
into the notches of the stakes to hold the net in 
place. The slack of the net was laid alongside the rope 




BAND-TAILED PIGEON i^Columba fasciata) 
Often mistaken for Passenger Pigeon 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 131 

early boyhood, when millions of pigeons visited this 
locahty on their spring and fall migrations, and during 
their spring migrations comparatively few halted with 
us to feed, but the great majority of them winged their 
way in a high-flying flock of unbroken columns, some- 
times half a mile in length, to the north and west, prob- 
ably to their breeding grounds; but on their return, 
from the first to the fifteenth of September, they would 
swarm down on our newly sowed wheat fields until acres 
of ground would be blue, and when they arose they 
would darken the air and their wings would sound like 
distant thunder. They were not so shy at this time of 
the year, as part of them were young birds, which were 
easily distinguished from the old ones by their speckled 
breasts; and I would here state that, during both spring 
and fall migrations, their greatest flight seemed to be 
from sunrise until about nine or ten o'clock A.M. 

My father was an old pigeon catcher, and it was dur- 
ing these fall migrations that he would go out in the 
middle of a wheat field, build his bough house, set his 
net, and prepare for the finest sport in which it was ever 
my good fortune to participate; and many a time have 
I been with him when he has caught hundreds of them 
in a single morning. You may ask. What did you do 
with so many pigeons? Well, I will tell you. We 
skinned out the breasts, pickled them for two or three 
days in weak brine, and then strung them on strings, 
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred on a string, 



J 32 The Passenger Pigeon 

and hung them up to dry in the same manner as dried 
beef (I mean the breasts). Of course the remainder 
of the carcasses we cooked for immediate use, or as much 
of them as we needed for the family. Let me tell you 
that those pigeon breasts were a dainty morsel, and 
would last as long as dried beef and was far Its superior 
in taste. 

While rummaging through the attic a few days since, 
I came across the old pigeon stool upon which the stool- 
pigeon was tied, which my father used so many years 
ago, and it carried me back to my boyhood and con- 
veyed to my mind vivid memories of the past. 

The pigeons continued to visit us In great abundance 
for a number of years, although there would be an occa- 
sional season when there would not be so many. As 
the years rolled by they became fewer In number until 
in the fall of 1876, when I saw my last Passenger 
Pigeons (a small flock of ten or fifteen) , I tried hard to 
procure some for my cabinet, but failed. 

One peculiar habit of the Passenger Pigeons was 
that during their migrations, should they alight and 
their crops were filled with Inferior food, they would 
vomit it up In order to fill themselves with something 
better should they find it. 

F. N. Lawrence stated In Forest and Stream of Feb- 
ruary 18, 1899, that when a boy, in the late forties, 
he spent most of his time on his grandfather's country 
seat at Manhattanvllle, on the North River. In those 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 133 

years the wild pigeon flew south on both sides of the 
North River by the thousands in the fall, and in lesser 
numbers flew north in the spring. 

He also wrote: "These migrations occurred with the 
utmost regularity. The first easterly storm after Sep- 
tember I St, clearing up with a strong northwest wind, 
was as surely followed by a flight of wild pigeons as 
the sun was to rise. During such storms, I have passed 
many a sleepless night watching to catch the first change 
of wind, and when it veered northwest, daybreak found 
me on the river bank watching for the flight that never 
failed. Ah ! how my heart jumped as flock after flock 
of wild pigeons came flying over Fort Washington like 
small clouds. I have shot a great many of them, but 
alas, like the buffalo, they are almost exterminated." 

I have run across what was evidently my first diary, 
dated 1872, when I was fourteen years old. I make the 
following extracts from it: 

April 6th. 'Tigeon flew this morning." 

Then on April 8th I mention 9 pigeons shot in the 
afternoon by my father, and say "they flew very thick 
in the morning." 

The record, like most boys' diaries, seems to have 
many skips, for the next item about pigeons is on the 
nth of May, saying that I shot 2 that day and on the 
I St of June I mention that I killed 3 pigeons in the 
inorning, "the most I ever have shot at one time." 

My marksmanship seem.s to have improved after that, 



I 34 The Passenger Pigeon 

for on the 7th of June I mention shooting 7, and on the 
8th 8 (I used to go every morning), and on the loth 
I got 8 again and on the i ith 12, and so on with vary- 
ing success. On June 1 1 I mention that the young ones 
were beginning to fly plentifully. 

W. B. M. 

Extract from a letter written by the late Alexander 
McDougall of Duluth, February 8, 1905 : 

I have been about Lake Superior since 1863. Have 
never known any rookery near the lake or in Lake 
Superior Basin, although I think they did breed near 
Lake Superior, for they were in such great quantities 
about the lake during the whole summer. In 1871 
when this town (Duluth) was first building, there were 
millions of them about here. In the Lake Superior 
region there are lots of berries but no beech nuts, ex- 
cept near Grand Island, 40 miles east of Marquette. 
It is likely if there was any roosting on Lake Superior, 
this would be the most favorable place. . . . The 
pigeon was numerous on Lake Superior in 1872, for I 
have recollections of catching some that year while cap- 
tain of the Steamer Japan. During foggy weather and 
at night, they would alight on the boat in great numbers, 
tired out. On foggy mornings, the blowing of our 
whistle would start them up. Often, when they would 
light on the eave of our overhanging deck, we could 
sneak along under the deck and quickly snatch one. I 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 135 

remember having caught several in that way. As 
clearly as I can remember, they left all at once along 
about 1875. I have seen a few here along about 1882, 
and one fall in October, I think, of 1884, I saw two or 
three, the last I remember of them. 

Kalamazoo, Mich., June 13th, 1905. 
Wm. B. Mershon, Saginaw, Mich.: 

It seems too bad that this noble bird should have 
been blotted out. The last flock, a small one, that I 
ever saw was in 1891. I saw pigeons in 1883, 1885 
and 1886. 

I have been in their nesting grounds. The males and 
the females sit on the nest on alternate days. When 
their big nesting was near South Haven in this State, 
the birds used to fly over this town every day in their 
quest for food, some of them going fully seventy-five 
miles in an air line from their nesting. One day it 
would be a continuous stream of male birds and the 
next day it would be the females. 

How the netters did massacre them and ship them 
away by thousands and thousands. Many were kept 
alive and shipped all over the country for pigeon 
shoots. The last wild pigeons ever used for this pur- 
pose that I know of was at John Watson's Grand Gross- 
ing, Chicago, Illinois, in 1886. I asked Watson, in 
February last, where he got those birds, and he said 



I 3 6 The Passenger Pigeon 



from Indian Territory, so I think the netters finally 
cleaned up what was left of the big flight that perished 
from the sleet and fog at their last nesting in Michigan, 
near Petoskey, in 1881. 

Their nests were built and eggs laid in late April. A 
big wind and storm of sleet came up just at dusk and 
the birds left; there was a big fog on Lake Michigan, 
and the birds were swallowed up by the storm; anyhow 
they disappeared then and there. I have heard tell of 
the beach being strewn for miles with dead pigeons, and 
I heard an old woodsman tell of the stench arising from 
*dead pigeons in the woods. 

It was that storm of ice that surely wiped them out. 

I was at Petoskey in 1882, and no pigeons showed up 
that year. 

What a host of memories of boyhood days are re- 
called, when one thinks of the wild pigeons. I can see 
myself a boy again, equipped with a long, single barrel 
shot gun, shot pouch and powder flask a-dangling, a 
box of G.D. caps in my pocket, and I a-sneakin' and 
a-sneakin' up for a shot at an old cock pigeon perched 
away up on a dead limb at the top of a tall tree. How 
handsome is that old cock with neck outstretched and 
tail a-streamin', the richness of his coloring, the red of 
the breast, the metallic sheen of that outstretched neck 
is of marvelous luster as bathed in the glories of the 
morning sunlight. He turns his head! He is onto 
that boy who is sneaking so carefully along the old 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 137 

rail fence. Carefully the gun is raised and aimed; the 
trigger is pressed. "Ker-whang" in a cloud of smoke 
is the loud report. The old cock, startled, flies away. 
"Missed him, by gosh!" is the boy's lament as he starts 
to reload, whilst in unison with the rattle of the grains 
of powder in the flask, there comes drifting down on the 
morning breeze, slowly wafting here and there, a long 
tail feather from that noble bird to show that though 
missed, yet the aim was true. 

Yours truly, 

Ben O. Bush. 

Kalamazoo, Mich., June 17th, 1905. 
Dear Mershon: 

Do not understand me as to my assertion, that in nest- 
ing time the wild pigeons in feeding, the males always 
alternate with the females, each having a day off and 
a day on throughout the period of incubation and the 
rearing of the young. It depended upon the amount of 
food and the distance that they had to go to get it, 
and they changed their habit according to the conditions. 
If they had to make a long flight, as was the case when 
they passed over here, then they alternated; but I will 
agree with you that their habit In nesting time when 
food was plenty and not far away, was for the males to 
sit first in the morning, then the females, and sometimes 
the males a second time, all in the same day. Pigeons 
require a great deal of water, and sometimes their crops 



138 The Passenger Pigeon 

would show that they had been to water prior to their 
return flight, while at other times the food in their crops 
would be dry. 

Some other boys and I had a lot of wild birds that 
we bought alive from a netter. We put the birds in the 
loft of a big barn where there was a lot of beans that 
had not been threshed. We would put in a big trough 
of water for them every day. The way those birds 
threshed out those bean pods was a caution. They be- 
came very fat and fairly tame. What wouldn't I give 
to hear the call note of Tete ! Tete ! Tete ! of the pigeons 
once more. Yours truly, 

Ben O. Bush. 

J. S. Van Cleef of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., wrote in 
Forest and Stream of May 20, 1899, as follows: 

For many years up to about 1850, flocks of wild 
pigeons in the fall were quite abundant, and were very 
often taken with nets, which was a very favorite way of 
capturing them at that time, but very few, if any, have 
been taken in this manner since that time. A few small 
flocks appeared in the fifties, but not to such an extent 
that an attempt was made to capture them through the 
aid of pigeon nets, and I find upon inquiry that the ex- 
perience of others agrees with my own. 

The last flight of pigeons of which I have any knowl- 
edge occurred in the seventies, where they nested in the 



Recollections of "Old Timers" 139 

mountain range south of the Beaverkill in the lower part 
of Ulster County. There were two flights about this 
time, one small one, and in the course of two or three 
years this was followed by a flight where the pigeons 
appeared in great numbers. 

This flock had nested in Missouri in the month of 
April, and the most of the squabs were killed by those 
who were in the business of furnishing squabs for the 
market. 

When the nesting was over the entire flock went to 
Michigan, where they nested again, and they were fol- 
lowed there by the same persons who again destroyed 
most of the squabs. When they left Michigan they 
took their flight eastward, and telegrams were sent all 
over that part of the country where the pigeons would 
be likely to nest a third time, and as soon as they settled 
in the Catskills these persons were apprised of the loca- 
tion and very soon appeared on the scene. 

The party, about thirty strong, stopped at Monson's, 
whose house was located on the upper Beaverkill, about 
three miles from the nest. 

This nest was a mile from the Willewemoc Lodge, 
where I happened to be during the whole time that the 
pigeons were in their roost. It was claimed at the 
time that the squabs were sent down to New York by 
the ton, but as to this I have no personal knowledge, 
though I do know that during the nesting all, or nearly 
all, of the squabs were destroyed, and this was done by 



140 The Passenger Pigeon 

invading the grounds at night and striking the trunks 
of the trees with a heavy axe or sledge hammer, upon 
which the squabs would tumble out of the nests on the 
ground, and be picked up and carried to Monson's and 
shipped to New York the next day. 

I do know, however, that from a natural ice house 
and the ice house belonging to our club, these persons 
obtained not less than fifteen tons of ice for the purpose 
of preserving the squabs. 

This is the last flight of pigeons that has ever taken 
place in this part of the country, so far as I have any 
knowledge, and I am very sure that if there had been 
any I would have known it. 

PoUGHKEEPSiE, N. Y., May 12. 



CHAPTER XII 
The Last of the Pigeons 

From "The Auk," July, 1897, under the title " Additional Records 
of the Passenger Pigeon {Ectopistes migratorius.y 

MOST of the notes on the Passenger Pigeon 
recorded In the past year have referred to 
single birds or pairs. It is with much pleas- 
ure that I now call attention to a flock of some fifty, 
observed in southern Missouri. I am not only greatly 
indebted to Mr. Chas. H. Holden, jr., for this inter- 
esting information, but for the present of a beautiful 
pair which he sent me in the flesh, he having shot them 
as they flew rapidly overhead. Mr. Holden was, at 
the time (December 17, 1896), hunting quail in Attie, 
Oregon County, Mo. The residents of this hamlet 
had not seen any pigeons there before in some years. 

Simon Pokagon, Chief of the remaining Pottawatta- 
mie tribe, and probably the best posted man on the wild 
pigeon in Michigan, writes me under date of October 
16, 1896: "I am creditably informed that there was a 
small nesting of pigeons last spring not far from the 
headwaters of the Au Sable River in Michigan." Mr. 
Chase S. Osborn, State Game and Fish Warden of 
Michigan, under date, Sault Ste. Marie, March 2, 1897, 

141 



142 The Passenger Pigeon 

writes: "Passenger Pigeons are now very rare Indeed 
In Michigan, but some have been seen in the eastern 
parts of Chippewa County, in the upper peninsula, every 
year. As many as a dozen or more were seen In this 
section In one flock last year, and I have reason to be- 
lieve that they breed here in a small way. One came 
into this city last summer and attracted a great deal of 
attention by flying and circling through the air with 
the tame pigeons. I have a bill in the Legislature of 
Michigan, closing the season for killing wild pigeons 
for ten years." 

RUTHVEN DeANE, 

Chicago, 111. 

From "The Auk," April, 1898, Vol. 15, Page 184, under the title, 

"The Passenger Pigeon {^Ectopistes migrator ius) in 

Wisconsin and Nebraska." 

Our records of this species during the past few years 
have referred in most instances, to very small flocks and 
generally to pairs or Individuals. In The Auk for 
July, 1897, I recorded a flock of some fifty pigeons 
from southern Missouri, but such a number has been 
very unusual. It is now very gratifying to be able to 
record still larger numbers and I am Indebted to Mr. 
A. Fugleberg of Oshkosh, Wis., for the following letter 
of Information, under date of September i, 1897: "I 
live on the west shore of Lake Winnebago, Wis. About 
6 o'clock on the morning of August 14, 1897, I saw a 



The Last of the Pigeons 143 

flock of wild pigeons flying over the bay from Fisher- 
man's Point to Stony Beach, and I assure you it re- 
minded me of old times, from 1855 to 1880, when 
pigeons were plentiful every day. So I dropped my 
work and stood watching them. This flock was fol- 
lowed by six more flocks, each containing about thirty- 
five to eighty pigeons, except the last, which only con- 
tained seven. All these flocks passed over within half 
an hour. One flock of some fifty birds flew within gun- 
shot of me, the others all the way from one hundred 
to three hundred yards from where I stood." Mr. 
Fugleberg is an old hunter and has had much experience 
with the wild pigeon. In a later letter dated September 
4, 1897, he writes: "On Sept. 2, 1897, ^ was hunting 
prairie chickens near Lake Butte des Morts, Wis., 
where I met a friend who told me that a few days 
previous he had seen a flock of some twenty-five wild 
pigeons and that they were the first he had seen for 
years." This would appear as though these birds were 
instinctively working back to their old haunts, as the 
Winnebago region was once a favorite locality. We 
hope that Wisconsin will follow Michigan In making 
a close season on wild pigeons for ten years, and thus 
give them a chance to multiply, and, perhaps, regain, In 
a measure, their former abundance. 

In Forest and Stream of Sept. 25, 1897, appeared a 
short notice of "Wild Pigeons In Nebraska," by "W. F. 
R." Through the kindness of the editor he placed me In 



144 The Passenger Pigeon 

correspondence with the observer, W. F. Rightmire, to 
whom I am Indebted for the following details given in 
his letter of Nov. 5, 1897: "I was driving along the 
highway north of Cook, Johnson County, Neb., on 
August 17, 1897. I came to the timber skirting the 
head stream of the Nemaha River, a tract of some 
forty acres of woodland lying along the course of the 
stream, upon both banks of the same, and there feed- 
ing on the ground or perched upon the trees were the 
Passenger Pigeons I wrote the note about. The flock 
contained seventy-five to one hundred birds. I did not 
frighten them, but as I drove along the road the feeding 
birds flew up and joined the others, and as soon as I 
had passed by they returned to the ground and con- 
tinued feeding. While I revisited the same locality, I 
failed to find the pigeons. I am a native of Tompkins 
County, N. Y., and have often killed wild pigeons in 
their flights while a boy on the farm, helped to net 
them, and have hunted them in Pennsylvania, so that I 
readily knew the birds in question the moment I saw 
them." I will here take occasion to state that in my 
record of the Missouri flock {Aiik, July, 1897, p. 316) 
the date on which they were seen (Dec. 17, 1896) was, 
through error, omitted. 

RUTHVEN DeANE, 

Chicago, 111. 



The Last of the Pigeons 145 

From "The Auk," January, 1896, under the title, "Additional 

Records of the Passenger Pigeon [Ectopistes migrator ius) 

in Wisconsin and Illinois," 

I am indebted to my friend, Mr. John L. Stockton, 
of Highland Park, 111., for information regarding the 
occurrence of this pigeon in Wisconsin. While trout 
fishing on the Little Oconto River in the Reservation 
of the Menominee Indians, Mr. Stockton saw, early in 
June, 1895, a flock of some ten pigeons for several con- 
secutive days near his camp. They were first seen while 
alighting near the bank of the river, where they had 
evidently come to drink. I am very glad to say that 
they were not molested. 

Mr. John F. Ferry of Lake Forest, 111., has kindly 
notified me of the capture of a young female pigeon 
which was killed in that town on August 7, 1895. The 
bird was brought to him by a boy who had shot it with 
a rifle ball, and although in a mutilated condition he 
preserved it for his collection. 

I have recently received a letter from Dr. H. V. 
Ogden, Milwaukee, Wis., informing me of the capture 
of a young female pigeon which was shot by Dr. Ernest 
Copeland on the ist of October, 1895. These gentle- 
men were camping at the time in the northeast corner 
of Delta County, Mich. (Northern Peninsula), in the 
large hardwood forest that runs through that part of 
the State. They saw no other of the species. 

RuTHVEN Deane, Chicago, 111. 



146 The Passenger Pigeon 

From *• The Auk," July, 1895, under the title, " Additional Records 
of the Passenger Pigeon in Illinois and Indiana." 

The occurrence of the wild pigeon (Ectopistes mi- 
gratorius) in this section of the country, and, in fact, 
throughout the West generally, is becoming rarer every 
year, and such observations and data as come to our 
notice should be of sufficient interest to record. 

I have, in the past few months, made inquiry of a 
great many sportsmen who are constantly in the field 
and in widely distributed localities, regarding any ob- 
servations on the wild pigeon, and but few of them 
have seen a specimen in the past eight or ten years. N. 
W. Judy & Co., of St. Louis, Mo., dealers in poultry, 
and the largest receivers of game in that section, wrote 
as follows: "We have had no wild pigeons for two 
seasons; the last we received were from Siloam Springs, 
Ark. We have lost all track of them, and our netters 
are lying idle." 

I have made frequent Inquiry among the principal 
game dealers in Chicago and cannot learn of a single 
specimen that has been received in our markets In several 
years. I am indebted to the following gentlemen for 
notes and observations regarding this species, which 
cover a period of eight years. I have various other 
records of the occurrence of the pigeon in Illinois and 
Indiana, but do not consider them sufficiently authentic 
to record, as to the casual observer this species and the 
Carolina dove are often confounded. 



The Last of the Pigeons 147 

A fine male pigeon was killed by my brother, Mr. 
Chas. E. Deane, April 18, 1887, while shooting snipe 
on the meadows near English Lake, Ind. The bird 
was alone and flew directly over him. I have the speci- 
men now in my collection. 

In September, 1888, while teal shooting on Yellow 
River, Stark County, Ind., I saw a pigeon fly up the 
river and alight a short distance off. I secured the bird 
which proved to be a young female. 

On Sept. 17, 1887, Mr. John F. Hazen and his 
daughter Grace, of Cincinnati, Ohio, while boating on 
the Kankakee River near English Lake, Ind., ob- 
served a small flock of pigeons feeding in a little oak 
grove bordering the river. They reported the birds 
as quite tame and succeeded in shooting eight speci- 
mens. 

Mr. Frank M. Woodruff, Assistant Curator, Chicago 
Academy of Sciences, informs me that on Dec. 10, 

1890, he received four Passenger Pigeons in the flesh, 
from Waukegan, 111., at which locality they were said 
to have been shot. Three of the birds were males and 
one was a female. One pair he disposed of, the other 
two I have recently seen in his collection. In the fall of 

1 89 1, Mr. Woodruff also shot a pair at Lake Forest, 
III., which he mounted and placed in the collection of 
the Cook County Normal School, Englewood, 111. 

In the spring of 1893, Mr. C. B. Brown, of Chicago, 
111., collected a nest of the wild pigeon containing two 



148 The Passenger Pigeon 

eggs at English Lake, Ind., and secured both parent 
birds. Mr. Brown describes the nest as being placed 
on the horizontal branch of a burr oak about ten feet 
from the trunk and from forty to fifty feet from the 
ground. He did not preserve the birds, but the eggs 
are still In his collection. The locality where this nest 
was found was a short distance from where the Hazens 
found their birds six years before. 

Mr. John F. Ferry informs me that three pigeons 
were seen near the Des Plaines River in Lake County, 
111., in September, 1893. C)ne of these was shot by Mr. 
F. C. Farwell. 

In an article which appeared in the Chicago Tribune 
Nov. 25, 1894, entitled "Last of His Race," Mr. E. B. 
Clark related his experience in observing a fine male 
wild pigeon in Lincoln Park, Chicago, 111., in April, 
1893. I quote from the article: "He was perched on 
the limb of a soft maple and was facing the rising sun. 
I have never seen in any cabinet a more perfect speci- 
men. The tree upon which he was resting was at the 
southeast corner of the park. There were no trees be- 
tween him and the lake to break from his breast the 
fullness of the glory of the rising sun. The pigeon 
allowed me to approach within twenty yards of his 
resting place and I watched him through a powerful 
glass that permitted as minute an examination as If he 
were In my hand. I was more than astonished to find 
here, close to the pavements of a great city, the repre- 



The Last of the Pigeons 149 

sentative of a race which always loved the wild woods, 
and, which I thought had passed away from Illinois 
forever." 

Mr. R. W. Stafford of Chicago, 111., who has shot 
hundreds of pigeons in former years within the present 
city limits of Chicago, informs me that in the latter 
part of September, 1894, while shooting at Marengo, 
111., he saw a flock of six flying swiftly over and appa- 
rently alight in a small grove some distance off. 

The above records will show that while in this sec- 
tion of the country large flocks of Passenger Pigeons 
are a thing of the past, yet they are still occasionally 
observed in small detachments or single birds. 

A. B. Covert of Ann Arbor, Mich., wrote under date 
of Oct. 27, 1894: 'Trior to the spring of 1881 the 
wild pigeon was everywhere a common bird of passage 
throughout the southern part of Michigan and nested 
commonly in the northern part. My home, in 1880, 
and for a few years after, was at Cadillac, Mich., and 
there was at that time a nesting place near Muskrat 
Lake in Missaukee County. Thousands of the birds 
were killed there. In the spring of 1881 the birds 
failed to make their appearance, and since then have 
been very rare. Nov. 23, 1892, I secured one male 
and two young females; these were killed in Scio, Wash- 
tenaw County, Oct. 9, 1893; one male near Ypsilanti, 
Mich., Sept. 27, 1894; one female killed at Honey 
Brook, Scio, Washtenaw County. There is also a 



150 The Passenger Pigeon 

female bird In this city that was killed in Livingston 
County in October, 1892." 

In a bulletin of the Michigan Ornithological Club, 
Vol. II, No. 3-4, July to December, 1898, Mr. A. B. 
Covert, the club's president, tells of seeing a flock, of 
about two hundred pigeons. On Oct. i, 1898, in Wash- 
tenaw County, Mich., he watched a large number of 
them all day. 

Mr. Stewart E. White writes from Ann Arbor under 
date of Feb. 9, 1894: 'My noteboolcs are not here so 
I cannot give exact dates, but I can remember distinctly 
every specimen I ever saw. I observed one flock of 
about sixty in Kent County in the fall, the last of Octo- 
ber or first of November, 1890. At Mackinac Island at 
various times in September of 1889 I saw parts of a 
large flock, of say two hundred. My field experience 
in the western part of Michigan has been quite extensive 
and thorough, but these two flocks are all I ever re- 
corded," 

F. M, Falconer of Hillsdale, Mich., on Dec. 3,1904, 
writes to Mr. Warren as follows: "During the last 
week of March, 1892, one of the students here shot a 
nice male. There were two together, but only one was 
secured. That summer I saw a small flock feeding in 
some thick woods along the banks of a stream in which 
I was fishing, in Chautauqua County, N. Y. There 
were eight or ten birds at least, and perhaps many more, 
as they scattered along in spots." 



The Last of the Pigeons 151 

Mr. T. E. Douglas of Grayling, Mich., reports that 
in the year 1900 he saw three Passenger Pigeons on the 
East Branch of Au Sable River, Michigan, and about 
five years previous to that date a flock of ten was seen 
around George's Lake, which is eight miles southwest 
of West Branch, Michigan. 

I also have a record of one pigeon taken by 
Mr. John H. Sage, in Portland, Conn., in October, 
1889. 

In May, 1904, Hon. Chase S. Osborn wrote: 

Dear Mr. Mershon: I haven't much Information 
relating to the pigeons in this section of the country. In 
fact, the pigeon was practically gone from the north 
when I first visited the country in 1880. I remember 
seeing a flock of about three hundred in Florence 
County, Wis., which would probably be on a line fifty 
miles south of here, in 1883. In 1884 I saw a flock in 
that same section, in the woods northwest of Florence, 
of about fifty. In 1 890 I saw six of these birds near the 
mouth of the Little Munoskong River in this county. 
This river empties into Munoskong Bay, about thirty 
miles southeast of here. In 1897 I saw a single wild 
pigeon, flying with the tame pigeons around this town. 
It was a remarkable sight and attracted the attention of 
many local bird lovers. There is no doubt that it was a 
pigeon, and it was absolutely alone as far as we could 
discover. 



152 The Passenger Pigeon 

Upon Inquiry here among old residents, I am told 
that there was quite a large roost on a beech ridge 
about forty miles west of here, which would be at a 
point north of the present station of Eckerman. I have 
been unable to learn just when this roosting place was 
discontinued, but as near as I can make out from com- 
paring statements and records, it must have been in '78, 
'79, or '80. 

I have heard of a large roosting place In northern 
Wisconsin which was used as late as 1874 by vast num- 
bers of birds. It was located to the south and a little 
west of Lac Vieux Desert. At the head of the Pike 
River In Wisconsin, a point probably sixty-five miles 
south of here, and west into that State, the pigeons 
were seen in large numbers until 1872. As I under- 
stand It, in the early days they were very likely to fre- 
quent the same section year after year when not too 
much disturbed. 

Mr. Newell A. Eddy of Bay City, Mich., under date 
of Aug. 7, 1905, wrote me as follows: 

I find that I have but few notes regarding this 
species. On Sept. 13, 1880, I took a single bird near 
the city of Bangor, Maine. The sex was not deter- 
mined. This was an unusual capture for the place and 
the time. A few years previous to that time, on a 
canoeing trip to the headwaters of the Penobscot River, 
I fell In with a small flock of a dozen or more In an old 



The Last of the Pigeons 153 



burnt-over swamp, but was unable to secure any of 
them. 

I presume that you have an abundance of notes on 
the Passenger Pigeon in this section of the country at 
the time it was so abundant here, as such information 
is readily obtainable from any of the old inhabitants 
of this locality. I had a very interesting interview the 
other day with Mr. C. E. Jennison of this city, who 
was one of our earliest settlers, and he gave me a great 
deal of information about this bird in the earlier days 
of Bay City. He also stated, which was quite interest- 
ing, that six or seven years ago he saw a few birds at 
Thunder Bay Island, near Alpena. This appears to 
be his last record of this species. 

The most interesting information I have was ob- 
tained from Mr. Birney Jennison, his son, who advised 
me a few days ago while we were on our way to Point 
Lookout, Saginaw Bay, that about the 15th of July, 
this year, he saw a pair of these birds in a swale at 
Point Lookout while roaming through the woods. He 
and I visited the same locality about two weeks after 
that, but saw nothing of them. Of course there is some 
likelihood that the birds Mr. Jennison saw may have 
been the common Carolina doves. Mr. Birney Jenni- 
son also had a great deal of experience with this bird 
in his younger days about Bay City, and there would 
appear to be no question as to his ability to accurately 
identify the bird." 



154 The Passenger Pigeon 

From Mr. Neal Brown, Warsaw, Wis., May 20, 
1904: 

Mr. W. B. Mershon, Saginaw, Mich. 

Dear Sir: — Your favor at hand with reference to 
the wild pigeon. It was, I think, three or four years 
ago that, in hunting with Mr. Emerson Hough near 
Babcock in this State in September, we killed an unmis- 
takable wild pigeon. I saw a few pigeons in the woods 
in Forest County, in this State, about fifteen years ago. 
About seven years ago I saw three near Wausau and 
shot one of them. There was a pigeon roost for many 
years in Wood County, in this State, but it has long 
since disappeared. 

When I was a boy in southern Wisconsin in the 6o's 
and 70's, wild pigeons were so numerous as to almost 
darken the air. In the early 70's there was a small roost 
on Bark River, near Ft. Atkinson, in this State. 

The wild pigeon had practically disappeared in 
southern Wisconsin as early as 1880, in fact, it was two 
or three years before that that I saw the last of them. 

Charles W. Ward of Queens, L. I., New York, re- 
ports that in October, 1883, he saw a flock of at least 
one hundred Passenger Pigeons along the Manistee 
River in Township 26-5 and the following year about 
one dozen nested in a Spruce swamp near Orchard Lake 
on his old homestead. He often saw the nest and the 
birds. He remembers the time as being the season of 



The Last of the Pigeons 155 

the year when huckleberries were ripe, for he was 
berry-picking when he first observed them. 

The writer of the following newspaper clipping of 
recent date is emphatically skeptical regarding the pres- 
ent-day existence of even an isolated pigeon : 

LAST PIGEON FLIGHT IN IOSCO IN 1880 

MILLIONS PASSED THROUGH THEN, BUT THEY HAVE 
NEVER BEEN THERE SINCE 

Tawas, Mich., July 27. — John Sims, county game 
and fish warden, ridicules the idea of flocks of wild 
pigeons being found in Iosco County, as was reported 
in some of the State papers. He says: 'There are no 
wild pigeons in Iosco County; nor have there been any 
here since April i, 1880. There fell about six inches 
of snov\^ on that day, then the weather cleared and the 
sun rose bright and clear, but it was but for a short 
time, as the air was clouded with pigeons going west- 
ward. That was the first time they had been here for 
a number of years, and, although it was Sunday, every- 
one who had a gun was shooting or trying to shoot, and 
there were lots of pigeons killed that day in nearly all 
the streets of Tawas. There were simply millions of 
them going westward, and those that were killed were 
picked up out of the snow. Since that day there have 
been no wild pigeons here. We have lots of mourning 
doves here, and the writer has probably seen these. 



1^6 The Passenger Pigeon 

There Is a certain magazine that offers $50 for a pair 
of wild pigeons, and I think the sportsmen would add 
another $50 to It to have the wild pigeons with us 
again. 

In the report of the Massachusetts commissioners on 
fisheries and game for the year ending December 31, 
1903, Is to be found the following: 

The occurrence of the wild pigeon is a matter of 
public and scientific Interest, and for this reason, and not 
because It is a game bird, reference to it is introduced 
here. Deputy Samuel Parker, who Is perfectly familiar 
with the wild pigeon, makes mention of Its appearance 
at Wakefield this year as follows: "In September a 
flock of wild pigeons, twenty-five or thirty in number, 
came over Crystal Lake." This notice of the presence 
of a species believed to be extinct Is interesting and must 
be important to ornithologists.* 

George King, guide and trapper, living In Otsego 
County, Michigan, told me in 1904 that four years be- 
fore he had seen along Black River a flock of wild 
pigeons, a dozen or more birds. He said there is no 
mistake about it, because he was familiar with the wild 
pigeon early in life. These alighted in a tree near him. 
He said that in 1902, also, he heard the call of two 
wild pigeons, although he hunted for the birds and did 
not find them. 

I believe that six wild pigeons were actually seen in 

*I believe that this informant was mistaken — W. B. M. 



^.imt' 




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Q 3 



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The Last of the Pigeons 157 

the latter part of April of 1905 near Vanderbilt, Mich., 
by this George King. I have tested his honesty and 
truthfulness time and time again. He told me he was 
seated in the branches of an apple tree when he saw six 
wild pigeons alight in another tree near him. He kept 
perfectly still and watched their movements for about 
thirty minutes. They flew from the old tree in which 
they had alighted, underneath a beech tree and began 
feeding on beech nuts from the ground. He says he 
heard them call and they made the same old crowing 
call of the wild pigeon. He was close to them; he is 
perfectly familiar with the dove and knows that these 
six were Passenger Pigeons. King has for many years 
lived in the section that formerly was the great pigeon 
nesting and feeding ground of northern Michigan. 

Michigan Agricultural College, 

July 14, '05. 
Dear Sir : — I have been away for the past three 
weeks and find your letter of June 27 here on my return. 
The photographs sent you were those of the Passenger 
Pigeon and the Carolina dove, the one of the two birds 
being intended to show relative size and appearance. 
It was taken from two of the best specimens in the 
museum, placed at exactly the same distance from the 
camera so that the picture shows the comparative size 
exactly. The birds being so similar in general appear- 
ance, the smaller one looks as if it were further away 



158 The Passenger Pigeon 

than the larger, and this, I think, shows clearly how 
impossible it is for the ordinary observer to discriminate 
between these two species when seen separately In the 
field. Of course a mixed flock would be a different 
proposition, but so far as I know the two species never 
mingle, and, at least In this State, it Is an unusual thing 
to find the Carolina dove in large compact flocks such 
as are characteristic of the Passenger Pigeon. In several 
cases, however, during August and September I have 
seen large scattered flocks of the Carolina dove which 
were feeding on weed seeds and grain in open fields, 
and which when disturbed, gathered into small bands 
of twenty to fifty each and flew and perched very much 
like Passenger Pigeons. In one case I saw at least five 
hundred Carolina doves acting this way, and had hard 
work to convince a sportsman friend of mine that they 
were not Passenger Pigeons. Finally, after getting 
directly under a small tree on which a dozen or more 
were perched, he was able to see that characteristic 
black dot on the side of the neck, and was also able to 
estimate more correctly the actual size of the birds. 
Yours very truly, 

Walter B. Burrows, 
Professor of Zoology. 



The Last of the Pigeons 159 

Agricultural College, 
Ingham Co., Mich., June 17, 1905. 
Mr. W. B. Mershon, Saginaw, Mich. 

Dear Sir: — Yours of the i6th Is at hand and In 
reply I would say that the Carolina dove Is rarely 
found north of the Au Sable River, and I should not 
expect ever to see It there in flocks In the spring; on 
the other hand It Is just as likely to be found early In 
the season as the Passenger Pigeon, since the Carolina 
dove winters regularly in southern Michigan and is 
one of the first birds to appear In the spring In this 
county, in fact not infrequently staying here through 
the winter. On the whole, however, I think there can 
be little doubt that Mr. King's report relates to the Pas- 
senger Pigeon and not to the dove. I have had some 
photographs taken of the Carolina dove and Passenger 
Pigeon together, and will ask my assistant, Mr. Myers, 
to mail you prints of these within a few days as soon as 
he has time to make some good ones. If these do not 
show what you desire we will try again. 
Yours very truly, 

Walter B. Burrows, 
Professor of Zoology. 

Mr. George E. Atkinson, to whom I am Indebted 
for much valuable data in this book, writes from 
Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, July 21, 1905, as 
follows : 



i6o The Passenger Pigeon 

I was on a holiday trip on the Assiniboia River last 
week, and a pair of birds flew bv me at a few yards' 
distance, flashing the pigeon color to all appearances 
in the sun and alighting on the bank. I turned my boat 
and until after I shot the bird, I would have sworn it 
was a pigeon, but it proved to be a large, bright 
plumaged dove. Atmospheric conditions considerably 
affected the size so that I am convinced that it is possible 
for even the best of us to be deceived, and a scientific 
record must not be formed on any supposition. 

Iron Mountain, Mich., 

May 30, 1904. 
Mr. W. B. Mershon, Saginaw, Mich. 

Dear Sir : — In reply to your letter of inquiry respect- 
ing the Passenger Pigeon, I will say that my knowledge 
of it is very hmited except from hearsay, but I am credi- 
bly informed that it nested at the east end of Deerskin 
Lake, Sec. 30, N44 W31, as late as 1888. Mr. Arm- 
strong, a timber cruiser, late a resident of this city, gave 
me this information. He said there was a small colony 
of less than a hundred birds then. Fire has since de- 
stroyed the timber there and he doubted if they were 
still there when he told me about them. Mr. A. was a 
keen observer and thoroughly reliable; had been famil- 
iar with the species when abundant in lower Michigan, 
and I have great confidence in the accuracy of his re- 
ports. I used to see them as late as 1883 in this 



The Last of the Pigeons 16 1 

vicinity. They were shot in the summer of 1883 dur- 
ing the blueberry season. I should estimate that as 
many as fifty birds were taken that summer. I cannot 
Imagine why they should have disappeared from this 
region. I have no reports concerning the birds from 
the north shore. 

In 1897 a young bird was taken In the neighboring 
town of Norway with a broken wing and identified by 
hunters who had known the species in the day of Its 
abundance. 

Dr. J. D. Cameron of this city Informs me that he 
saw a flock of about fifty birds flying over the St. 
George Hospital of this place on the 28th of October, 
1900. He was positive that he was not mistaken, as 
the birds were flying low, and he had formerly been well 
acquainted with the species in Canada. You can take 
this latter for what it is worth. Dr. C's. veracity Is 
beyond question, but whether he could have mistaken 
some other birds for the pigeons I am not prepared to 
say. He is not interested In ornithology and I would not 
expect him to recognize ordinary birds, but he may 
have hunted the wild pigeon In his younger days 
and so be familiar with Its manner of flight. I 
cannot Imagine any other birds that he could mistake 
for them. 

I have an Idea that I may have seen one myself In the 
summer of 1900 , but am not sufficiently well acquainted 
with It to recognize it at sight. I fired at it with a .22 



1 62 The Passenger Pigeon 

rifle, and the peculiar maneuvers which it executed in 
the air as the bullet passed, attracted my attention. I 
was afterward told that the wild pigeon tumbled in the 
air that way when fired at. I thought at first that it 
was hit. 

Yours truly, 

E. E. Brewster. 



CHAPTER XIII 
What Became of the Wild Pigeon ? 

By Sullivan Cook, from "Forest and Stream," March 14, 1903.* 

WHEN a boy and living in northern Ohio, I 
often had to go with a gun and drive the 
pigeons from the newly sown fields of wheat. 
At that time wheat was sown broadcast, and pigeons 
would come by the thousands and pick up the wheat 
before it could be covered with the drag. My father 
would say, "Get the gun and shoot at every pigeon you 
see," and often I would see them coming from the woods 
and alighting on the newly sowed field. They would 
alight until the ground was fairly blue with these beau- 
tiful birds. 

I would secrete myself in a fence corner, and as these 
birds would alight on the ground they would form them- 
selves in a long row, canvassing the field for grain, and 
as the rear birds raised up and flew over those in front, 
they reminded one of the little breakers on the ocean 
beach, and as they came along in this form, they re- 
sembled a windrow of hay rolling across the field. 

* I think that anyone who reads this article will be, like myself, satisfied 
that the destrnction of the pigeons was wrought to gratify the avarice and 
love of gain of a few men who slaughtered them until they were virtually 
exterminated. — W, B. M. 

163 



164 The Passenger Pigeon 

I would wait until the end of this wave was opposite 
my hiding place and then arise and fire into this windrow 
of living, animated beauty, and I have picked up as 
many as twenty-seven dead birds killed at a single shot 
with an old flintlock smooth bore. Later in the fall 
these birds would come in countless millions to feed 
on the wild mast of beech nuts and acorns, and every 
evening they would pass over our home, going west of 
our place to what was known as Lodi Swamp. 

Many and many a time have I seen clouds of birds 
that extended as for as the eye could reach, and the 
sound of their wings was like the roar of a tempest. 
And for those who are not acquainted with the habits 
and flight of these birds, I wish to say that once in the 
month of November, while these pigeons were going 
from their feeding grounds to this roost In the Lodi 
Swamp, they were met with a storm of sleet and snow. 
The wind blew so hard that they could not breast it and 
were compelled to alight in a sugar orchard near our 
place. This orchard consisted of twenty acres, where 
the timber had all been cut out, except the maples, and 
when they commenced alighting, the trees already par- 
tially loaded with snow and Ice, and the vast flock of 
pigeons being attracted by those alighting, all sought the 
same resting place. 

Such vast numbers alighted that in a short time the 
branches of the trees were broken and as fast as one 
tree gave way those birds would alight on the already 



What Became of the Wild Pigeon? 165 

loaded tree adjoining, and, that, too, was stripped of 
its long and limber branches. Suffice it to say that in 
a half hour's time this beautiful sugar orchard was 
entirely ruined by the loads of birds which had at- 
tempted to rest from the storm. 

About this time I enjoyed my first pigeon hunt in 
a roost. Being a boy about sixteen years of age, having 
a brother about thirteen, and as we had seen the pigeons 
going by to their roost for hours and knowing that 
many people went there every night to shoot pigeons 
on the roost, my brother and I were seized with a de- 
sire to go and enjoy this exciting sport. Then arose 
the difficulty of a gun suitable for the occasion. As 
we had nothing but a small-bore rifle and not owning 
a shotgun, we appealed to father as to what we should 
do for a gun. We had previously gained his consent 
to our going. He suggested that we take the old horse 
pistol; one of the Revolutionary time, which had been 
kept in the family as a reminder of troublesome years. 

Let the young man of to-day, who hunts with the 
improved breechloader, think of two boys starting 
pigeon hunting, their only outfit consisting of a horse 
pistol, barrel twelve inches long, caliber 12-gauge, flint- 
lock, one pound of No. 4 shot, a quarter of a pound of 
powder, a pocket full of old newspaper for wadding, 
a two-bushel bag to carry game in, and a tin lantern. 
Thus equipped, we started for the pigeon roost a little 
after dark. Although three miles from the roost when 



1 66 The Passenger Pigeon 

we started from home, we could hear the sullen roar of 
that myriad of birds, and the sound increased in volume 
as we approached the roost, till it became as the roar 
of the breakers upon the beach. 

As we approached the swamp where the birds roosted, 
a few scattered birds were frightened from the roost 
along the edge of the swamp. These scattering birds 
we could not shoot, but kept advancing further into the 
swamp. As we approached this vast body of birds, 
which bent the alders flat to the ground, we could see 
every now and then ahead of us a small pyramid which 
looked like a haystack in the darkness, and as we ap- 
proached what appeared to be this haystack, the 
frightened birds would fly from the bended alders, and 
we would find ourselves standing in the midst of a 
diminutive forest of small trees of alders and willows. 

We now found these apparent haystacks were only 
small elms or willows completely loaded down with live 
birds. My brother suggested that I shoot at the next 
"haystack." So we advanced along very carefully 
among the now upright alders till we came to where it 
was a perfect roar of voices and wings, and just ahead 
of us we saw one of those mysterious objects which so 
resembled a haystack. 

My brother suggested that I aim at the center of it 
and let the old horse pistol go. I instantly obeyed his 
suggestion, pointing as best I could in the dim light at 
the center of that form, and pulled. There was a flash 



What Became of the Wild Pigeon? 167 

and a roar, and the very atmosphere seemed to be alive 
with flying, chattering birds. The old tin lantern was 
lighted. The horse pistol was hunted for, as it had 
recoiled with such force I had lost hold of it. The 
gun being found, we then approached as nearly as we 
could the place where I had shot at the stack. From 
this discharge we picked up eighteen pigeons and saw 
some hobbling away into thick brush, from which we 
could not recover them. After an hour of this kind 
of hunting our bag was full of pigeons, and our tallow 
candle in the lantern nearly consumed. We retraced 
our steps out of the swamp, and about 1 1 o'clock at 
night arrived home well satisfied with the night's hunt 
in the pigeon roost. We had had acres of enjoyment 
and had brought home bushels of pigeons. 

This is only to give an idea of what pigeons were in 
northern Ohio in the days of my boyhood. This was In 
the years of 1844 to 1846. In 1854, having grown to 
man's estate, I moved to Michigan and settled In Cass 
County, where I built a log house and began clearing 
up a farm. After having cleared three or four fields 
around my house, one morning one of my girls came 
running In from out of doors and said: "Pa, come 
out and see the pigeons." 

I went to the door and saw scooting across my fields, 
as it seemed skimming the surface of the earth, flock 
after flock of the birds, one coming close upon the heels 
of another. I hastened Into the house and grasped my 



1 68 The Passenger Pigeon 

double barreled shotgun, powder flask and shot pouch ; 
my little girl, then a miss of twelve summers, following 
me. I took a stand on a slight rise in the middle of a 
five-acre field and commenced shooting, you might say, 
at wads of pigeons, so closely huddled were they as they 
went by. Letting the birds get opposite me and firing 
across the flock, I was enabled to kill from three to 
fifteen pigeons at a shot. And my girl was wildly 
excited, picking up the dead birds and catching the 
winged ones and bringing them to me. 

You never saw two mortals more busy than we were 
for a half hour. At this time my wife called for break- 
fast, as we were near the house, and I found my stock 
of ammunition nearly exhausted. We went Into the 
house for our breakfast and when we came out the birds 
were flying as thickly as ever. She says, let us count 
the pigeons and see how many we have. We found we 
had killed and picked up In this short time twenty-three 
dozen. My wife said I had better take them to Three 
Rivers, which was our nearest town, and sell them. 
And as my ammunition was about exhausted, I hitched 
up my team, took twenty dozen of the birds and drove 
ten miles to the station, sold my birds for sixty-five 
cents a dozen and returned home well satisfied with my 
day's work, and having on hand a good supply of am- 
munition for the next morning's flight. 

Now I wish to pass along, the lapse of time being 
about sixteen years. During this time I had removed 



What Became of the Wild Pigeon? 169 

from Cass County to Van Buren County, where I had 
located in the beautiful village of Hartford. In the 
year 1869 or 1870, the pigeoners, a class of men who 
hved in Hartford, made a business of netting pigeons, 
and they are living here yet, and not one of them 
feels any pride in the part he took in the destruction 
of these beautiful birds. In March, 1869, word was 
received that a large flight of pigeons were coming 
north through the State of Indiana. These men, who 
had followed the pigeons for years, said, "As we have 
snow on the ground they will be sure to nest near 
here, and as we have had a big crop of beech nuts and 
acorns last fall they will be sure to stop to get the 
benefit of this mast." A queer thing about the pigeon 
was that he always built his nest on the borders of the 
snow, that is, where the ground underneath was cov- 
ered with snow. 

Sure enough, as predicted, in two days after receiv- 
ing notice of the flight of the birds from Indiana, 
myriads of pigeons were passing north along the east 
shore of Lake Michigan, and soon scattering flocks were 
seen going south towards the bare ground. In a few 
days word was received that pigeons had gone to nest- 
ing in what was then called Deerfield Township, a vast 
body of hardwood and hemlock timber. Then it was 
that the pigeon killers, with their nets, stool birds and 
flyers commenced making preparations for the slaugh- 
ter of the beautiful birds when they began laying 



170 The Passenger Pigeon 

their eggs. This takes place only three or four days 
after they commence nesting, as a pigeon's nest is the 
simplest nest ever built by a bird seen in a tree. It con- 
sists of a few little twigs laid crosswise, without moss 
or lining of any kind, and the lay of eggs is but one. 
As soon as one egg is laid, they commence sitting, and 
the male pigeon is quite a gentleman in his way, taking 
his turn and sitting one-half of the time. 

In about twelve or fourteen days — some claim twenty 
— the young pigeon is hatched. As soon as hatched 
the male and female birds commence feeding on what 
is known as marsh feed, that is, on low, springy ground. 
And from this feed Is supplied to both the male and 
female bird what Is known as pigeon's milk, forming 
Inside of the crop a sort of curd, on which the young 
pigeon is fed by both father and mother, who supply 
this food. The young bird is gorged with this food, 
and in a few days becomes as heavy as the parent 
bird. Another singular thing about the wild pigeon 
is that as the snow melts and the ground is left bare 
where the nesting Is, the old birds never eat the nuts 
in the nesting, but leave them for the benefit of the 
young one, and so when he comes off the nest he al- 
ways finds an abundance of food at his very door, as 
It were. As soon as the young birds are able to leave 
the nest and begin feeding on the ground in the 
nesting, the old birds immediately forsake them, move 
again on to the borders of the snow and start another 



What Became of the Wild Pigeon? 171 

nesting. In five or ten days the young birds will follow 
in the direction of the old birds. 

When the young birds first come off the nest and 
commence feeding on the ground, they are fat as 
balls of butter, but in ten days from this time, when 
they start on their northern flight to follow their 
mother bird, they are poor as snakes, and almost unfit 
to eat, while, when they first leave the nest they are 
the most palatable morsel man ever tasted. However, 
in about forty days from the time they began nesting to 
the time they took their northern flight, there were 
shipped from Hartford and vicinity, three carloads a 
day of these beautiful meteors of the sky. Each car 
containing 150 barrels with 35 dozen in a barrel, mak- 
ing the daily shipment 24,750 dozen. 

Young men who are now hunting for something to 
shoot and wondering what has become of our game, 
must hear with anger and regret such reports as this 
from western Michigan in the days gone by: "In three 
years' time there were caught and shipped to New York 
and other eastern cities 990,000 dozen pigeons, and in 
the two succeeding years it was estimated by the same 
men who caught the pigeons at Hartford that there 
were one-third more shipped from Shelby than from 
Hartford; and from Petoskey, Emmett County, two 
years later, it is now claimed by C. H. Engle, a resident 
of this town, who was a participant in this ungodly 
slaughter, that there were shipped five carloads a day 



172 The Passenger Pigeon 

for thirty days, with an average of 8,250 dozen to the 
carload. Now, when one asks you what has become of 
the wild pigeons, refer them to C. H. Engle, Stephen 
Stowe, Chas. Sherburne, and Hiram Corwin, and a man 
by the name of Miles from Wisconsin, Mr. Miles hav- 
ing caught 500 dozen in a single day. And when you 
are asked what has become of the wild pigeons, figure 
up the shipping bills, and they will show what has 
become of this, the grandest game bird that ever cleft 
the air of any continent. 

My young friends, I want to humbly ask your for- 
giveness for having taken a small part in the destruc- 
tion of this, the most exciting of sport. And there is 
not one of us but is ashamed of the slaughter which has 
robbed you of enjoyment. If we had been restrained 
by laws of humanity, you, too, could have enjoyed this 
sport for years to come. 



CHAPTER XIV 
A Novel Theory of Extinction 

By C, H. Ames and Robert Ridgway 

Boston, March 8, 1906. 
Mr. W. B. Mershon: 

Dear Sir: — Thank you for your note of the third 
in reply to mine of the first, in regard to your book on 
the Passenger Pigeon, I note that you say: 

" There is room to make additions if you think you have something 
that would be interesting, and would like to submit it to me for my 
consideration. " 

Thanking you for your courtesy in the matter, I beg 
to say that I have long had great interest in the prob- 
lem of the so sudden and complete destruction of this 
great species, and have from the first been quite unable 
to believe that the ordinarily assigned agencies for the 
destruction of the pigeon were adequate, or anywhere 
near adequate, to make a destruction so sudden and 
complete. 

Several accounts which have come to my notice have 
strengthened my view. I know well that the attack of 
man and beast upon the pigeons in their rookeries, or 
breeding places, was fierce, persistent and enormously 

T73 



174 The Passenger Pigeon 

destructive, and that at these breeding places the de- 
stroyers gathered in great numbers, but, with my vivid 
recollection of the tremendous flights of pigeons which 
I myself saw in the '6o's in northern Illinois, the wide 
distribution of the bird, and what I know of its migra- 
tory habits (I wish I knew very much more about these 
habits), I cannot think that in so few years the practical 
destruction of the species could be effected by the means 
referred to. 

Years ago — I cannot tell how many, but I am confi- 
dent it must have been at about the time of the disap- 
pearance of the great pigeon flights — I read an account, 
either in or quoted from a New Orleans newspaper, giv- 
ing the stories of several ship captains and sailors who 
had arrived in New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico. 
They stated that they had, in crossing the Gulf, sailed 
over leagues and leagues of water covered, and covered 
thickly, with dead pigeons. The supposition was that 
an enormous flight of the pigeons crossing the waters 
of the Gulf had been overwhelmed by a cyclone, or 
some such atmospheric disturbance, and that the birds 
had been whirled into the surf and drowned. 

I have been told by competent ornithologists con- 
nected with the Boston Society of Natural History that 
Pigeon Cove, a well-known and much frequented ex- 
tremity of Cape Ann, near Gloucester, Mass., received 
its name from the fact that a large flight of pigeons was 
similarly overwhelmed In flying along the Atlantic near 



A Novel Theory of Extinction 175 



that place, and that their bodies covered the shore in 
"windrows." 

Not more than two years ago, if so long, I read a 
lengthy and signed account in a Montreal paper of a sim- 
ilar catastrophe to a great flight of pigeons in attempt- 
ing to cross Lake Michigan, and similar statement was 
made that for miles the beach above Milwaukee was 
heaped and piled with "windrows" of dead pigeons. 

Within two or three years several accounts have 
reached us, bearing every mark of believability, that 
considerable flights of geese, swans and ducks have 
been drowned in the surf off the New Jersey and Mary- 
land shores. These flights of birds have been over- 
whelmed in a sudden storm or gale of wind, which beat 
them down into the surf where they were drowned, their 
bodies drifting about, and some of them being thrown 
up on the shore. 

These accounts have come from fishermen, sports- 
men and others, and I see no reason whatever to doubt 
that a flight of birds of any species known could easily 
be destroyed if caught off shore in some of the wind 
storms of which we have so many instances. I have 
frequently in Forest and Stream propounded my 
theory and asked for information about it before it 
became too late. The whole theory stands or falls, as 
it seems to me, with the ascertainment of the southern 
limit of the migration of the great pigeon flight. If 
the birds did not cross the Gulf of Mexico there is far 



176 The Passenger Pigeon 

less likelihood of my theory being the correct one, 
though my inquiries in Forest and Stream elicited 
one very circumstantial account of an enormous de- 
struction of pigeons on the Gulf Coast, the birds being 
blown into the Gulf and destroyed by a fierce "norther" 
which beat down the coast for two or three days. Per- 
sons familiar with this phenomena of the Texas 
"norther" need no help to their imaginations in seeing 
how a pigeon flight, being caught on the shores of the 
Gulf by such a wind could be practically destroyed. 

I do not know that you will think my theory worth 
any consideration, but I have finally interested a number 
of ornithologists who share my view that the final and 
sudden wiping out of the great bulk of the pigeon flight 
must have been by some cataclysmic agency. It seems 
to me that the question is one of great interest from 
the point of view of the naturalist and biologist, and 
well worth serious investigation by all who care for 
these things. I shall be pleased to know if what I have 
said seems to you of interest and to have any weight. 

Wishing you all success in your admirable under- 
taking, and anticipating with great pleasure the results 
of your studies in your proposed book, I am. 

Yours very truly, 

C. H. Ames. 



A Novel Theory of Extinction 177 



Memorandum prepared by Mr. Robert Ridgway, Cura- 
tor of the Division of Birds, U. S. National Museum, 
to accompany letter to Mr. fV. B. Mershon, Sagi- 
naw, Mich. 

If Mr. Mershon will communicate on the subject of 
Passenger Pigeons with Mr. William Brewster,* 145 
Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass., he may get some 
data which will (or ought to) dismiss from considera- 
tion the idea that the passenger pigeon could have been 
exterminated in the manner suggested by Mr. Ames. 
During a visit to northern Michigan, Mr. Brewster 
talked with a great many pigeon netters. I have for- 
gotten the figures, and may be very inexact in my recol- 
lection of them, but my recollection is that at one 
"roost" there were one hundred netters who averaged 
one thousand (it may have been ten thousand) pigeons 
per day. When it is considered that this was the rate 
of destruction at one locality in one State only, that 
the same was going on in other States, and that tens of 
thousands were being killed by hunters and others, and 
this year after year, I cannot see anything surprising in 
the eventual extermination of the species, no matter 
how numerously represented originally. 

Nothing in the history of the Passenger Pigeon is 
more certainly known than the fact that its range to 
the southward did not extend beyond the United States. 

* See Chapter VII, "Netting the Pigeon" by Wm. Brewster. 



178 The Passenger Pigeon 

There Is a single Cuban record, but the occurrence was 
purely accidental. The migrations of the Passenger 
Pigeon were wholly different in their character from 
those of true emigrants, that is to say, they were in- 
fluenced or controlled purely by the matter of food 
supply, as in the case of the robin and some other birds, 
and the flights were as often from west to east and 
vice versa as from south to north or north to south ; in 
short, the flocks moved about in various directions in 
their search for food or nesting places. For myself, 
I do not believe in the story of drowning in the Gulf 
of Mexico for two reasons. In the first place the birds 
are extremely unlikely to have been there, a hurricane 
from the northward being absolutely necessary to ex- 
plain their presence in that quarter, and, in the second 
place, no such explanation is needed in view of what is 
known to be the facts concerning their wholesale de- 
struction by human agency alone. 

The range of the Passenger Pigeon was limited to 
the mixed hardwood forest region of the eastern 
United States and Canada, and any that occurred be- 
yond were stragglers, pure and simple. Consequently 
it was not found, except as stragglers, in the long-leaf 
pine belt of the Gulf Coast, but only on the uplands 
from northern or middle Alabama, Mississippi, and 
Louisiana, northward. 



CHAPTER XV 
News from John Burroughs 

WHEN the following report from so high an 
authority as John Burroughs appeared in 
Forest and Stream it seemed too important 
to be overlooked. I therefore ventured to open a 
correspondence with this famous naturalist, even sug- 
gesting that his informants might have mistaken some 
other species of migratory bird for a flight of wild 
pigeons. I had once made a similar mistake In Texas 
when the northern migration of the curlews was in full 
flight. Countless flocks of them were streaming past at 
a considerable distance from me, and I could have sworn 
they were wild pigeons until I was lucky enough to see 
them at much closer range. Even now the newspapers 
east and west contain an annual crop of wild pigeon 
reports, most of which are to be found fake reports 
upon careful investigation. It has happened often that 
hunters and woodsmen mistake the wild dove for the 
pigeon, and refuse to believe otherwise. The corre- 
spondence explains itself, however, and is a valuable 
contribution to the subject in hand. 

W. B. M. 

179 



i8o The Passenger Pigeon 

A FLOCK OF WILD PIGEONS * 

West Park, N. Y., May nth. 
Editor Forest and Stream: 

I have received evidence which is to me entirely con- 
vincing that a large flock of Passenger Pigeons was seen 
to pass over the village of Prattsville, Greene County, 
this State, late one afternoon about the middle of April. 
The fact was first reported in the local paper, the Pratts- 
ville News. An old boyhood schoolmate of mine, 
Charles W. Benton, was, with others, reported to have 
seen them. I have corresponded with Mr. Benton and 
have no doubt the pigeons were seen as stated. Mr. 
Benton saw pigeons, clouds of them, in his boyhood, 
and could not well be mistaken. He says it was about 
5 o'clock, and that the flock stretched out across the 
valley about one-half mile and must have contained 
many hundreds. It came from the southeast, and went 
northwest. Mr. Benton says that a large flock was re- 
ported last year as having passed over the village of 
Catskill, and that a wild pigeon was shot near Pratts- 
ville last fall. A friend of mine saw two pigeons in the 
woods at West Point a year or so ago. 

I have no doubt, therefore, that the wild pigeon Is 
still with us, and that if protected we may yet see them 
in something like their numbers of thirty years ago. 

John Burroughs. 

*YxoTXi Forest and Stream, May 19, 1906. 



News from John Burroughs i8i 

West Park, N. Y., May 27, 1906. 
To W. B. Mershon: 

Dear Sir : — I can give you no more definite infor- 
mation about that flock of pigeons than I reported to 
Forest and Stream. I have no doubt about the fact. 
If you will write to C. W. Benton, Prattsville, N. Y., 
he can put you in communication with several people 
who saw the flock. 

I am just about to write to Forest and Stream of 
another very large flock of pigeons that was seen to pass 
ov^er the city of Kingston, N. Y., on the morning of the 
15th. I have written to Judge A. T. Clearwater of 
that city, who replies that he has talked with many per- 
sons who saw the pigeons and who had seen the pigeons 
years ago. The flock is described as a mile long. I 
am going up to Kingston soon to question the persons 
who saw the flock. If I learn anything to discredit the 
story I will let you know. We never have a flight of 
any birds here that could be mistaken for pigeons by 
any one who had ever seen the latter. If these flocks 
were pigeons, where have they been hiding all these 
y^^^*s : Very sincerely yours, 

John Burroughs. 

Prattsville, N. Y,, June 9, 1906. 
W. B. Mershon, Saginaw, Mich. : 

Dear Sir: — Yours of the 6th inst. is before me and 
I hasten to reply. Now, In the first place, you speak 



1 82 The Passenger Pigeon 

of John Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs and I went to 
school together when we were boys, and, as you say, he 
is a good authority on natural history, and I have had 
some communication with him on the pigeon question. 
I live in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, which was 
once a great resort for wild pigeons, and I have seen a 
vast number of them, dating back as far as 1848, when 
this country was literally covered with them, and for 
some years after. Now in regard to the wild pigeons 
1 saw this spring. I was going to my home in the vil- 
lage of Prattsville, in company with a man by the name 
of M. E. Kreiger, one Sunday afternoon, and when 
near my house we stopped to talk a few minutes, when, 
on looking up, we saw the flock of pigeons. They were 
coming from the southeast and went to the northwest. 
The flock was about one-half mile long and flew in the 
same manner as pigeons of old. There were thousands 
of them. Now in regard to ducks, teal and plover, we 
never see any of them here in the mountains, though 
once in a while a few ducks, but only in small flocks of 
seven or eight in a bunch; and there are no birds that 
gather In flocks here but crows In the fall, but never at 
any other time. Wild geese fly over here In the fall. 

The Daily Leader, a daily paper published In Kings- 
ton, Ulster County, N. Y., contained an Item a few 
weeks since stating that a flock of wild pigeons passed 
over the city a short time ago. The flock was about 
one mile long and contained many thousands. And In 



News from John Burroughs 183 



the spring of 1905, the Catskill Recorder, a newspaper 
published in this county, reported seeing a flock similar 
to the one seen at Kingston. 

Wishing you success on your fishing trip, I am. 

Yours truly, 

C. W. Benton. 

THE SULLIVAN COUNTY PIGEONS 

West Park, N. Y., June 30th. 
Editor Forest and Stream: 

Since I wrote you a few weeks ago, I have been look- 
ing up the men who were reported to have seen wild 
pigeons recently. I have seen six men who are positive 
they have seen flocks of wild pigeons — some of them 
two years ago, and some of them this past spring. As 
these men were all past middle age and had been 
familiar with the pigeon thirty and forty years ago and 
were, moreover, men reported truthful and sober by 
their neighbors, and who impressed me as being en- 
tirely reliable, I feel bound to credit their several state- 
ments. At De Bruce, Sullivan County, Mr. Cooper, 
the postmaster and village blacksmith, said he had seen 
a large flock of pigeons in the fall two years ago. They 
were about a buckwheat field. He pointed out the hill 
about which they were flying. Mr. Cooper had shot 
and trapped a great many pigeons years ago, and was 
sure he could not mistake any other bird for a pigeon. 
A farmer, whose name I do not now remember and 



184 The Passenger Pigeon 



who heard Mr. Cooper's statement, said he saw a large 
flock last fall about a buckwheat field, In the same town. 
This man was reported to me as perfectly reliable, and 
he gave me that Impression. 

At Port Ewen, I met a Hudson River shad fisher- 
man, Mr. Van Vllet, who said he had seen early one 
morning In April or May, two years ago, a flock of wild 
pigeons over the Hudson. He estimated the flock as 
containing seventy or eighty birds. Mr. Van Vllet is 
a man nearly seventy years old, and one cannot look 
into his face and have him speak and doubt for a mo- 
ment the truth of what he is saying. When I asked 
him if he knew the wild pigeon, he smiled good- 
humoredly and said he knew them as well as he knew 
anything; he had lived in the time of pigeons, and had 
killed hundreds of them. 

Another man, one of the leading grocerymen of Port 
Ewen, said he had seen a very large flock of pigeons 
between 4 and 5 o'clock on May 15 last, flying over 
as he was on his way to open his store. His hired man, 
who was with him, also saw them. Mr. Van Leuven 
had also seen pigeons in his youth and described to me 
accurately their manner of flight and the form of the 
flock against the sky. A neighbor of his told me he 
had seen a flock of fifteen or twenty pigeons on a foggy 
morning only a few days before. The rush of their 
wings overhead first attracted his attention to them. 
But he had never seen wild pigeons, and might have 



News from John Burroughs 185 

been deceived, though he was sure they were pigeons 
by their speed and general look. 

None of these men could have had any motive in 
trying to deceive me, and I feel bound to credit their 
stories. Their statements, taken in connection with the 
statement of my old schoolfellow at Prattsville, N. Y., 
of whom I wrote you, makes me believe that there is a 
large flock of wild pigeons that still at times frequents 
this part of the State, and perhaps breeds somewhere 
in the wilds of Sullivan or Ulster County. But they 
ought to be heard from elsewhere — from the south or 
southwest in winter. 

John Burroughs. 

P. S. — Just as I finished the above, I came upon the 
following in the Poughkeepsie Sunday Courier: 

"We noticed recently an item asking whether wild 
pigeons are returning. Sullivan County people seem 
to be taking the lead in answering the question, but a 
Dutchess County farmer named David Rosell, living 
near Fishkill Plains, who was familiar with the afore- 
said birds in old days, reports having seen a flock of 
about thirty feeding on his buckwheat patch one morn- 
ing last week, which gives evidence that the birds are 
not extinct as supposed, but a flock may merely be 
taking a tour around the world like Magellan of old. 
Mr. Rosell stated that he had not seen any before in 
about forty years. At first sight, he could hardly be- 
lieve his eyes, but he was not long in becoming con- 
vinced of their identity." 



CHAPTER XVI 
The Pigeon in Manitoba* 

By George E. Atkinson 

WHILE the biological history of any country 
records the decrease and disappearance of 
many forms of life due to just or unjust cir- 
cumstances, it remains for the historical records of 
North America to reveal a career of human selfishness 
which may be considered the paragon. Within four 
centuries of North American civilization (or modified 
barbarism) we can be credited with the wiping into the 
past of at least three species of animal life originally 
so phenomenally abundant and so strikingly character- 
istic in themselves as to evoke the wonder and amaze- 
ment of the entire world. And, sad to relate, so effect- 
ual has been the extermination, that it is doubtful if 
our descendants a few generations hence will be able to 
learn anything whatever about them save through the 
medium of books. While herein again we shall be just 
subjects of their censure for having manifestly failed 

* This paper was read at a meeting of the Manitoba Historical and 
Scientific Society at Winnepeg in 1905, by the author, a naturalist, residing 
at Portage la Prairie. 

186 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 187 

to preserve in history's archives any material amount of 
specific information. 

The early settlers landing upon the Atlantic coast 
between Newfoundland and the Carolinas found them 
in possession of armies of great auks, and the few scraps 
of authenticated history which we now possess disclose 
a most iniquitous course of wanton slaughter and de- 
struction which ended in the complete extinction of the 
bird over sixty years ago. Yet in the face of this de- 
struction there remain but four mounted specimens and 
two eggs in the collections of North America to-day, 
while but seventy skins remain in the collections of the 
entire world. 

If possible, more ruthless and inhuman was the car- 
nage waged against the noble buffalo, the countless 
thousands of which roaming over virgin prairies ex- 
cited the wonder and amazement of the entire sporting 
and scientific world, and which, to-day, are represented 
only in the zoological parks, where all individuality 
will eventually be lost in domestication. 

Coincident almost with the passing of the buffalo 
we have to record the decline and fall of the Passenger 
Pigeon, a bird which aroused the excitement and won- 
der of the entire world during the first half of the last 
century because of its phenomenal numbers; a bird also 
which stood out unique in character and individuality 
among the 300 described pigeons of the world and 
which won the admiration of every ornithologist who 



1 88 The Passenger Pigeon 

was fortunate enough to have experience with it Hving 
or dead. Yet it was not exempt from the oppression 
of its human foe, who has been instrumental, through 
interference with the breeding and feeding grounds and 
through a continued persecution and ruthless slaughter 
for the market, in reducing the species almost beyond 
the hope of salvation. 

The Passenger Pigeon, the species under observation, 
was first described under the genus Columba, or type 
pigeons, but subsequently Swainson separated it from 
these and placed it under the genus Ectopistes because 
of the greater length of wing and tail. 

Generically named Ectopistes, meaning moving about 
or wandering, and specifically named Migratoria, mean- 
ing migratory, we have a technical name implying not 
only a species of migrating annually to and from their 
breeding ground, but one given to moving about from 
season to season, selecting the most congenial environ- 
ment for both breeding and feeding. 

. . . With all the knowledge we have possessed of 
the unestimable multitudes which existed during the 
early part of the last century, and with their decline, 
begun and noted generally in the later sixties and early 
seventies, we still find that no steps whatever were taken 
to prevent their possible depletion, and few records of 
any value are made of the continuance or speed of this 
decrease; and not until the last decade of the century 
do we awake to the fact that the pigeons are gone be- 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 189 

yond the possibility of a return in any numbers. When 
a few years later reports are made that pigeons still 
exist and are again increasing, scientific investigation 
shows that the mourning dove has been mistaken for 
the pigeon or that the band-tailed pigeon of California 
is taken for the old Passenger Pigeon, and so we have 
continued since the early nineties investigating rumors 
of their appearance from all over America, north and 
south, and the West India Islands, but all reports point 
us to the past for the pigeon and some other species 
under suspicion. ... I doubt very much if the 
historian desirous of compiling any historical work 
would find himself confronted with such a decided blank 
in historical records during an important period as that 
confronted in the compilation of a historical record of 
the Passenger Pigeon within any district which it for- 
merly frequented during the period from about 1870, 
when the decline was first noticed, to 1890, when the 
birds had practically passed away. 

In this matter, Mr. J. H. Fleming of Toronto, in 
writing me, says: "The pigeons seem to have gone off 
like dynamite. Nobody expected it and nobody pre- 
pared a series of skins" ; and to this I can add that no 
one seems to have made any series of records of the 
birds from year to year. Since their disappearance, 
however, things have changed: everybody is alert for 
pigeons, and everybody has a theory; but beyond offer- 
ing subject of social conversation, or awakening a re- 



190 The Passenger Pigeon 

cital of old pigeon experiences from the old timers, 
these rumors and theories seem to return to the winds 
from whence they came. 

The latest theory advanced to me by a correspondent 
Is the possibility of some disturbance of the elements in 
the shape of a cyclone, or a storm striking a migrating 
host in crossing the Gulf of Mexico and destroying them 
almost completely. This is a plausible theory, but I am 
unable to conceive how such immense hosts of pigeons 
as are recorded up to 1865 could possibly have met 
with sudden disaster in this manner, even in the center 
of the Gulf, without leaving some wreckage to tell the 
story, and such is not recorded. While again I do not 
think that the entire host would cross the Gulf, but that 
a large portion of the migrating birds would take an 
overland route through Mexico and Central America 
to the southern boundary of their flight. Personally I 
am inclined to cherish my original contentions that the 
continued disturbance of the breeding and feeding 
grounds, both by the slaughter of the birds for market 
and by the dissipating of the original Immense colonies 
by the clearing of the hardwood and pine forests of the 
United States and eastern Canada, compelling these 
sections of the main column to travel farther In search 
of congenial environment, curtailing the breeding sea- 
son, and, I have no doubt, frequently preventing many 
from breeding for several seasons. 

While the persistent persecution and destruction for 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 191 

the market was In no way proportionately lessened in 
the vicinity of these smaller colonies as long as a suffi- 
cient number of the birds remained to make the traffic 
profitable, it can at once be seen that this continued drain 
upon these smaller colonies, when other conditions were 
becoming more difficult for the birds to contend with, 
would be instrumental in depleting the entire former 
main column to a point when netting and shooting were 
no longer profitable; and, the remnant of these colonies 
having to run a gantlet of persecution over their en- 
tire course of migration to and from winter quarters, 
there could be but one result to such proceeding, and 
that one we now face; extermination. 

Of these records made during the pigeons' day, as 
we might call it, the earliest we have are those made 
by a Mr. T. Hutchins, who was a Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany trader, operating for some twenty-five years in 
the district adjacent to Hudson's Bay, during which 
time he made copious notes of the birds frequenting 
that district, which were afterwards published by 
Pennant in his "Arctic Zoology" in 1875. ^^ says in 
part: 

"The first pigeon I shall take note of Is one I re- 
ceived at Severn in 1771 ; and, having sent It home to 
Mr. Pennant, he Informed me that It was the migratoria 
species. They are very numerous Inland and visit our 
settlement in the summer. They are plentiful about 
Moose Factory and Inland, where they breed, choosing 



192 The Passenger Pigeon 

an arboreous situation. The gentlemen number them 
among the many delicacies the Hudson's Bay affords 
our tables. It is a hardy bird, continuing with us until 
December. In summer their food is berries, but after 
these are covered with snow, they feed upon the juniper 
buds. They lay two eggs and are gregarious. About 
1756 these birds migrated as far north as York Fac- 
tory, but remained only two days," 

In a report issued in 1795, Samuel Hearne also re- 
ports the birds being abundant inland from the southern 
portion of Hudson's Bay, but states that, though good 
eating, they were seldom fat. 

The first provincial record is that made by Sir John 
Richardson in 1827, in which he says: "A few hordes 
of Indians who frequent the low floods districts at the 
south end of Lake Winnipeg subsist principally on the 
pigeons during the period when the sturgeon fishing is 
unproductive and the wild rice Is still unripened, but 
farther north the birds are too few in numbers to fur- 
nish material diet." 

I presume that he means farther up the Lake Winni- 
peg shores, since Hutchlns and Hearne both reported 
them common nearer Hudson's Bay. 

The early records of the birds In eastern Canada In 
later years corroborate the earlier statements of Wilson 
and Audubon In almost every particular; and one ac- 
quainted with the timbered conditions of the country 
to the Immediate west of the Red River Valley and 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 193 

north of the American boundary line can readily appre- 
ciate the utter inadequacy of an acceptable food supply 
for these countless millions of pigeons; and we can also 
readily understand how very soon the breaking up of 
the original hardwood forests of eastern Canada would 
tend to decrease the visible food supply and cause these 
hungry millions to seek new pastures. 

The breaking of these feeding grounds would first 
be instrumental in scattering or breaking up the largest 
flocks, and even the very long distances the bird was 
able to fly from breeding to feeding ground would be 
exceeded, necessitating next the nesting in smaller colo- 
nies, where careless nesting habits with continued chang- 
ing conditions would .end to continue to decline their 
numbers, while the tenacity with which even the smaller 
roosts were clung to by man, like leeches to a frog, and 
the hapless victim shot, netted and stolen from the nest 
before maturity, was but another effectual and not the 
least responsible agent in the relegation of the pigeon 
to that past from which none return. 

When I decided to attempt the preparation of a re- 
view history of the pigeon in Manitoba, I felt that, 
having had practically no experience with the bird my- 
self, I should have to depend upon the reports of repre- 
sentative pioneers of the country for my facts as to the 
numbers of the birds formerly found here, and the 
period of their decline and disappearance. I accord- 
ingly drafted a series of questions which I submitted to 



194 The Passenger Pigeon 

these gentlemen, and I have to tender them all my sin- 
cere thanks, as well as that of the scientific world, for 
the ready responses and the conciseness of the informa- 
tion received. 

One of the earliest residents of Portage la Prairie, 
Mr. George A. Garrioch, informs me : 

"I was born in Manitoba and came to Portage la 
Prairie about 1853. I was then only about six years 
old, and as far back as I can remember pigeons were 
very numerous. 

"They passed over every spring, usually during the 
mornings, in very large flocks, following each other in 
rapid succession. 

"I do not think they bred in any numbers in the 
province, as I only remember seeing one nest; this con- 
tained two eggs. 

'The birds, to my recollection, were most numerous 
in the fifties, and the decline was noticed in the later 
sixties and continued until the early eighties, when they 
disappeared. I have observed none since until last year, 
when I am positive I saw a single male bird south of the 
town of Portage la Prairie." 

Mr. Angus Sutherland of Winnipeg, in reply to my 
interrogation, states : 

"I was born in the present city of Winnipeg and have 
lived here over fifty years. The wild pigeons were very 
numerous in my boyhood. They frequented the mixed 
woods about the city, and while undoubtedly many birds 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 195 

bred here, I remember no extensive breeding colonies 
in the province, and believe the great majority passed 
farther north to breed. About 1870 the decrease in 
their numbers was most pronouncedly manifest, this de- 
cline continuing until the early eighties, when they had 
apparently all disappeared, and I have seen only occa- 
sional birds since, and none of late years." 

Mr. W. J. McLean, formerly of the Hudson's Bay 
Company and at present a resident of Winnipeg, sends 
me some valuable information, which supports my con- 
tention regarding the influence of food supply. He 
writes : 

"I came to the Red River Settlement in i860 and 
found the pigeons very plentiful on my arrival. The 
birds came in many thousands, and great numbers of 
them bred in the northeastern portion of the province 
through the district north of the Lake of the Woods 
and Rainy Lake, where the cranberry and blueberry 
are abundant. These fruits constitute their chief food 
supply, as they remain on the bushes and retain much 
of their food properties until well on into the summer 
following their growth. They also feed largely on 
acorns wherever they abound. The decline began about 
the early seventies, and 1877 was the first year in which 
I encountered large flocks of them passing northwesterly 
from White Sand River near Fort Pelly. This was on 
a dull, drizzling day about the middle of May, and I 
presume they were then heading towards the Barren 



196 The Passenger Pigeon 

Grounds district, where the blueberry and the cranberry 
are very abundant," 

Mr. E. H. G. G. Hay, formerly police magistrate of 
Portage la Prairie, now of St. Andrews, reports: 

"I came to the country in June, 1861, and found that 
the pigeons were abundant previous to my arrival. To 
give you an idea of their numbers, a Mr. Thompson of 
St. Andrews some mornings caught with a net about 
ten feet square as many as eighty dozen, and in the 
spring of 1864 I fired into a flock as they rose from 
the ground and picked up seventeen birds. 

"The birds were mostly migratory in what is now 
known as Manitoba, and most of them went farther 
north after the seeding season. I never heard of any 
extensive rookeries such as those observed in the east 
and south. The few that bred here frequented mixed 
poplar and spruce. They seemed most numerous in the 
sixties and began to show signs of decreasing about 
1869 or 1870, and by 1875 they had all disappeared 
and I have only seen an occasional bird since." 

Mr. William Clark of the Hudson's Bay Company, 
Winnipeg, Informs me: 

'The first place I remember having seen pigeons In 
Manitoba was at White Horse Plains (St. Frangols 
Xavier) In 1865, where they were very numerous, 
breeding In the oak trees in that district. Two years 
after this I went to Oak Point on Lake Manitoba, but 
do not remember the birds there then nor since." 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 197 

Mr. Charles A. Boultbee of Macgregor, Man., re- 
plies as follows : 

"I have resided in Manitoba since 1872, and have 
taken pigeons as far north as Fort Pelly in the fall of 
1874, but know nothing of them previously. In our 
district they usually made their appearance in the fall 
and fed upon the grain. They continued fairly numer- 
ous until about 1882, at which time we had to drive 
them from the grain stocks, but they then disappeared 
and only stragglers have been noted since." 

There is no doubt that many other reports could have 
been secured, but, as all seem to tend toward the one 
conclusion, I shall save time and space by summarizing 
the information at hand. 

Some months ago I made a statement in an article, 
written for local interest, to the effect that Manitoba 
had never been the home of the wild pigeon. By this 
I meant that, because of unfavorable breeding and feed- 
ing conditions within the province, only the smallest 
percentage of the enormous flocks recorded for the 
south and east could possibly exist here. The records 
here collected support me in this contention so far as 
that portion of the province west of the Red River is 
concerned, but the record of Sir John Richardson tends 
to show that favorable conditions must have existed im- 
mediately south of Lake Winnipeg, through what he 
calls a low-lying district, and where we can assume that 
the cranberry and blueberry were abundant, as they 



198 The Passenger Pigeon 

were through the district subsequently reported by Mr. 
McLean to the east and northeast of this district. 
There is no doubt that the difference in the character 
of the country east of the Red River from that of the 
west would present more favorable conditions for the 
birds, but not in one case has it been shown that the 
birds nested in colonies approaching the size of the 
famous eastern and southern ' roosts. Reports seem 
rather to show that those which bred within the prov- 
ince were more generally scattered over the country, at 
the same time being numerous enough to permit the 
shooter and the netter to make a profitable business of 
killing the birds. 

All evidence seems to show that large numbers passed 
through the province to and from a northern breeding 
ground, possibly that recorded by Hutchins near Hud- 
son's Bay and to the westward, and that they were ex- 
cessively numerous up to about 1870, when they began 
to decrease. As to the latest authenticated records, I 
quote from notes in my pamphlet on "Rare Bird 
Records:" 

'The beautiful specimen of the Passenger Pigeon that 
I have been able to secure for illustration is loaned me 
by Mr. Dan Smith of Winnipeg, who shot it in St. 
Boniface, southeast of the cathedral, in the fall of 1893 ; 
and, so far as I have been able to discover, it was the 
last bird found in the vicinity of Winnipeg, while the 
only specimen in the flesh which I was ever privileged 




Photo by C. O. Whitman ^Uiiivetsity of Chi^ajjo) 

October i6, igo6. 
Mr. W. B. Mershon, 

Dear Sir: — 1 am much chagrined over my carelessness in overlooking your request for 
a photo of a young Passenger Pigeon. I had best of intentions, but crowded work threw this out of 
mind. I should have attended to it at first, had it been easy to get at the picture 1 have been 
away all summer and found things misplaced on my return. I fear it is now too late, but send the 
picture to be used if you are still able to do so. I shall be very much interested to see your book. 
I still have two female pigeons and two hybrids between a former male pigeon and the common 
Ring-dove. The hybrids are inifortunately infertile males. Very truly, 

C. O. W'hitm.an. 



The Pigeon in Manitoba 199 

to handle in Manitoba was killed at Winnipegosis on 
April 10, 1896, and sent me to be mounted." 

Since that time I have expended much effort in fol- 
lowing up rumors of the bird's presence in various dis- 
tricts with a view of locating a breeding pair. Not 
only have I sought to secure a bird to mount, but also 
to get a live pair, or the eggs while fresh, to assist in 
the preservation of the pigeon in a partially domesti- 
cated state, since the only specimens nov/ living in cap- 
tivity are those owned by Prof. Whitman of the Uni- 
versity of Chicago, who, in writing me, says: "My^ 
stock seems to have come to a complete standstill, hav- 
ing raised no young for the last four years. The weak- 
ness is due to long inbreeding, as my birds are from a 
single pair captured about twenty-five years agO' in 
Wisconsin. I have long tried to secure new stock, but 
have been unsuccessful. A single pair would enable me 
to save them, for they breed well in confinement. 

"I have crossed them with ring doves, and still have 
three hybrids, but as these are infertile there is no hope 
of even preserving these half-breeds alive. Of all the 
wild pigeons in the world the Passenger Pigeon is my 
favorite. No other pigeon combines so many fine quali- 
ties in form, color, strength and perfection of wing 
power." 

I am enabled through the kindness of Prof. Whit- 
man to exhibit a photograph of one of his younger birds, 
taken in his aviary at Chicago. 



CHAPTER XVII 
The Passenger Pigeon in Confinement 

{Ectopistes migratorius) 

From "The Auk," July, 1896. 

IN the American Field of December 5, 1895, I 
noticed a short note, stating that Mr. David 
Whittaker of Milwaukee, Wis., had in a spacious 
inclosure a flock of fifty genuine wild pigeons. Being 
much interested of late in this bird, I at once wrote to 
Mr. Whittaker, asking for such information in detail 
regarding his birds as he could give me, but, owing to 
absence from the city, he did not reply. Still being 
anxious to learn something further regarding this in- 
teresting subject, I recently wrote to a correspondent 
in Milwaukee, asking him to investigate the matter. In 
due time I received his reply, stating that he had seen 
the pigeons, but that the flock consisted of fifteen in- 
stead of fifty birds, and inviting me to join him and 
spend a few hours of rare pleasure. 

On March i, 1896, I visited Milwaukee, and made 
a careful inspection of this beautiful flock. I am 
greatly indebted to Mr. Whittaker, through whose 
courtesy we saw and heard so much of value and in- 
terest, not only in regard to his pet birds, but also about 



The Pigeon in Confinement 201 

his large experience with the wild pigeon in its native 
haunts; for, being a keen observer of nature, and hav- 
ing been a prospector for many years among the timber 
and mining regions of Wisconsin, Michigan and Can- 
ada, his opportunities for observation have been ex- 
tensive. In the fall of 1888 Mr. Whittaker received 
from a young Indian two pairs of pigeons, one of 
adults and the other quite young. They were trapped 
near Lake Shawano, in Shawano County in northeast- 
ern Wisconsin. 

Shortly after being confined, one of the old birds 
scalped itself by flying against the wire netting, and 
died; the other one escaped. The young pair were, 
with much care and watching, successfully raised, and 
from these the flock has increased to its present num- 
ber, six males and nine females. The inclosure, which 
is not large, is built behind and adjoining the house, 
situated on a high bluff overlooking Milwaukee River. 
It is built of wire netting and inclosed on the top and 
two sides with glass. There is but slight protection 
from the cold, and the pigeons thrive in zero weather 
as well as in summer. A few branches and poles are 
used for roosting, and two shelves, about one foot wide 
and partitioned off, though not inclosed, are where the 
nests are built and the young are raised. It was several 
years before Mr. Whittaker successfully raised the 
young, but, by patient experimenting with various kinds 
of food, he has been rewarded. The destruction of the 



202 The Passenger Pigeon 

nests and egg, at times by the female, more often by 
others of the flock, and the killing of the young birds, 
after they leave the nest, by the old males, explains in 
part the slow increase in the flock. 

When the pigeons show signs of nesting, small twigs 
are thrown onto the bottom of the inclosure; and, on 
the day of our visit, I was so fortunate as to watch the 
operations of nest building. There were three pairs 
actively engaged. The females remained on the shelf, 
and, at a given signal which they only uttered for this 
purpose, the males would select a twig or straw, and in 
one instance a feather, and fly up to the nest, drop it and 
return to the ground while the females placed the 
building material in position and then called for more. 

In all of Mr. Whittaker's experience with this flock 
he has never known of more than one egg being 
deposited. Audubon, in his article on the Passenger 
Pigeon, says: "A curious change of habits has taken 
place in England in those pigeons which I presented to 
the Earl of Kirby in 1830, that nobleman having as- 
sured me that, ever since they began breeding In his 
aviaries, they have laid only one egg." The eggs are 
usually laid from the middle of February to the middle 
of September, some females laying as many as seven or 
eight during the season, though three or four Is the 
average. 

The period of Incubation Is fourteen days, almost to 
a day, and. If the egg Is not hatched In that time, the 



The Pigeon in Confinement 203 

birds desert it. As in the wild state, both parents assist 
in incubation, the females sitting all night, and the 
males by day. As soon as the young are hatched the 
parents are fed on earth worms, beetles, grubs, etc., 
which are placed in a box of earth, from which they 
greedily feed, afterwards nourishing the young, in the 
usual way, by disgorging the contents from the crop. 
At times the earth in the inclosure is moistened with 
water and a handful of worms thrown in, which soon 
find their way under the surface. The pigeons are so 
fond of these tid-bits they will often pick and scratch 
holes in their search, large enough to almost hide them- 
selves. 

When the birds are sitting during cold weather, the 
egg is tucked up under the feathers, as though to support 
the egg in its position. At such times the pigeon rests 
on the side of the folded wing, instead of squatting on 
the nest. During the first few days, after the young is 
hatched, to guard against the cold, it is, like the egg, 
concealed under the feathers of the abdomen, the head 
always pointing forward. In this attitude, the parents, 
without changing the sitting position or reclining on 
the side, feed the squab by arching the head and neck 
down, and administering the food. The young leave 
the nest in about fourteen days, and then feed on small 
seeds, and later, with the old birds, subsist on grains, 
beech nuts, acorns, etc. 

The adults usually commence to molt in September 



204 The Passenger Pigeon 

and are but a few weeks in assuming their new dress, 
but the young in the first molt are much longer. At the 
time of my visit the birds were all in perfect plumage. 
The young in the downy state are a dark slate-color. 

The pigeons are always timid, and ever on the alert 
when being watched, and the observer must approach 
them cautiously to prevent a commotion. They in- 
herit the instincts of their race in a number of ways. 
On the approach of a storm the old birds will arrange 
themselves side by side on the perch, draw the head and 
neck down into the feathers, and sit motionless for a 
time, then gradually resume an upright position, spread 
the tail, stretch each wing in turn, and then, as at a given 
signal, they spring from the perch and bring up against 
the wire netting with their feet as though anxious to fly 
before the disturbing elements. Mr. Whittaker has 
noticed this same trait while observing pigeons in the 
woods. 

It was with a peculiar sense of pleasure and satisfac- 
tion that I witnessed and heard all the facts about this 
flock, inasmuch as but few of us expect to again have 
such opportunities with this pigeon in the wild state. 
It is to be hoped that, if Mr. Whittaker continues to 
successfully increase these birds, he will dispose of a 
pair to some zoological gardens; for what would be a 
more valuable and interesting addition than an aviary 
of this rapidly diminishing species? 



The Pigeon in Confinement 205 



LETTERS OF COMMENT FROM CHIEF POKAGON. 

Hartford, Mich., Dec. 17, 1896. 
RuTHVEN Deane, Chicago, 111. 

Dear Sir: — Your article on wild pigeons (O-me- 
me-00) received and just read with much interest. I 
am now satisfied you are deeply interested in those 
strange birds, or you would not have gone to Mil- 
waukee to see them. I would like to have Whittaker's 
full name and address so I can learn the come-out of 
that little flock. You note his flock stands zero weather. 
Many times In my life I have known O-me-me-oo, while 
nesting, to be obliged to search for food in from four 
to six inches of snow, and have seen the snow at such 
times upturned and intermixed with forest leaves for 
miles and miles. They would move out of the nesting 
grounds in vast columns, flying one over the other. I 
have seen them at such times reminding me of a vast 
flood of water rolling over a rocky bottom, sending the 
water in curved lines upwards and falling farther down 
the stream. 

I have seen them many times building nests by the 
thousand within sight, both male and female assisting 
in building the nest. I have counted the number of 
sticks used many times; they number from seventy to 
one hundred and ten, sometimes so frail I have plainly 
seen the eggs from the ground. 

I visited a nesting north of Kilburn City, Wis., about 



2o6 The Passenger Pigeon 

tv/enty-five years ago, and I there counted as high as 
forty nests in scrub oaks not over twenty-five feet high ; 
in many places I could pick the eggs out of the nests, 
being not over five or six feet from the ground. 

I stopped then with the Win-a-ba-go Indians, and 
was much interested in seeing them play mog-i-cin. I 
had heard the fathers explain the game when a boy, 
but never saw it before. I call it a gambling game. 
Certain it is, when nesting in a wild state, the male 
goes out at break of day; returning from eight to eleven 
he takes the nest ; the hen then goes out, returning from 
one to four, and takes the nest; then the male goes out, 
returning, according to feed, between that time and 
night. 

After the young leave their nests, I have always 
noticed that a few, both males and females, stay with 
them. I have seen as many as a dozen young ones 
assemble about a male, and, with drooping wings, utter 
the plaintive begging notes to be fed, and never saw 
them misused at such times by either gender. Certain 
it is, while feeding their young they are frantic for salt. 
I have seen them pile on top of each other, about salt 
springs, two or more deep. I wonder if your friend 
gives his birds, while brooding, salt. 

Hartford, Mich., Dec. i8, 1896. 
Dear Sir: — Yours of December 17th at hand. It 
is indeed surprising to me that your place of business 



The Pigeon in Confinement 207 

is so close to old Fort Dearborn. In writing you yester- 
day, I overlooked what you said about the Milwaukee 
man's experience with his birds just hatching. I under- 
stand they were young birds. Thirty-two years ago 
there was a big nesting between South Haven and St. 
Joseph on Lake Michigan. About one week after the 
main body commenced nesting, a new body of great size, 
covering hundreds of acres, came and joined them. I 
never saw nests built so thick, high and low. I found 
they were all young birds less than a year old, which 
could be easily explained from their mottled coloring. 
To my surprise, soon as nests were built, they com- 
menced tearing them down — a few eggs scattered about 
told some had laid; within three days they all left, 
moving In a body up the lake shore north. I have had 
like facts told me by others who have witnessed the 
same thing; and therefore conclude that your friend's 
experience accurately portrays the habits of these birds 
In their wild state. 



University of Chicago, 

May 30, 1904. 
Dear Sir: — I have ten of the wild pigeons; they are 
from a single pair obtained by Mr. Whittaker of Mil- 
waukee about twenty years ago. Mr. W. bred from 
this pair until he had a dozen or more. I obtained a 
few pairs from him, and they bred fairly well for a few 
years, but lately have failed to accomplish anything. 



2o8 The Passenger Pigeon 

This season a single egg was obtained. It developed 
for about a week and then halted. The stock is evi- 
dently weakened by inbreeding so long. I can give no 
information as to time of disappearance. I have 
sought information far and near. Only a few birds 
have been reported the last three years. One was re- 
ported on pretty reliable grounds from Toronto last 
summer. 

Sorry I can give you no satisfactory details. 

Yours truly, 

C. O. Whitman. 

[Under date of June 6, 1905, Prof. Whitman of the 
University of Chicago wrote to me that his flock had 
been reduced from ten to four since he last wrote. He 
says that one pair were then beginning the maneuvers 
preceding nesting, but he doubted very much if they 
would accomplish anything.] 



CHAPTER XVIII 
Nesting Habits of the Passenger Pigeon 

By Eugene Pericles (Dr. Morris Gibbs), from "The Oblogist, 1894." 

THERE are hundreds and perhaps thousands of 
the younger readers of The Oologist who have 
never seen a Passenger Pigeon alive. In fact, 
there are many who have never seen a skin or stuffed 
specimen, for the species is so rare now that very few 
of the younger collectors have had an opportunity of 
shooting a bird. And of the present generation of 
oologists, the ones who have secured a set (one egg) 
are indeed very few. 

Many of the older ornithologists can remember when 
the birds appeared among us in myriads each season, 
and were mercilessly and inconsiderately trapped and 
shot whenever and wherever they appeared. I could 
fill a book with the accounts of their butcheries, and 
could easily cause astonishment in my readers by telling 
of the immense flocks which were seen a quarter of a 
century ago. But wonderful as these tales would ap- 
pear, they would be as nothing compared to the stories 
of the earlier writers on birds in America. 

Of course we know that the net and gun 
209 



2IO The Passenger Pigeon 



have been the principal means of destruction, but it is 
almost fair to assert that even with the net and gun 
under proper restrictions, the pigeon would still be with 
us in hordes, both spring and autumn. For many years 
hunters (butchers) used to shoot the birds regularly at 
their nesting places, while the netters were also found 
near at hand. 

I have seen many birds taken, by unsportsmanlike 
netters, for the market during spring migrations, and 
the published accounts of the destruction by netters is 
almost beyond belief. Doctor Kirtland states that near 
Circlevllle, Ohio, in 1850, there were taken in a single 
net in one day 1,285 live pigeons. 

The Passenger Pigeon was in the habit of crossing the 
Ohio River by March i in the spring migrations, and 
I have noted the birds several times in Michigan in 
February. But this was not usually the case, for the 
birds were not abundant generally before April i, 
although no set rule could be laid down regarding their 
appearance or departure either in spring or fall. They 
usually came with a mighty rush. Sometimes they did 
not appear, or, at least, only very sparingly. Their 
nesting sites would remain the same for years if the 
birds were unmolested, but they generally had to change 
every year or two, or as soon as the roostwas discovered 
by the despicable market netter. 

Where the mighty numbers went to when they left 
for the south is not accurately stated, and, of course, this 



Nesting Habits of the Pigeon 211 

will now never be known, but they were found to con- 
tinue in flocks in Virginia, Kentucky and even Ten- 
nessee. 

. . In the latter part of April or early May 
the birds began nesting. The nest building beginning 
as soon as the birds had selected a woods for a rookery, 
the scene was one of great activity. Birds were flying in 
every direction In search of twigs for their platform 
nests, and it did seem that each pair was intent on secur- 
ing materials at a distance from the structure. Many 
twigs were dropped in flying, or at the nest, and these 
were never reclaimed by their bearers, but were often 
picked up by other birds from another part of the rook- 
ery. This peculiarity in so many species of birds in nest 
building I could never understand. 

It takes a pair of pigeons from four to six days to 
complete a nest, and any basketmaker could do a hun- 
dred per cent, better job with the same materials in a 
couple of hours. In the nest of the pigeon, man could 
certainly give the birds points for their benefit, for it is 
one of the most shiftless structures placed in trees that I 
have met with. 

The nest is always composed of slender dead twigs, 
so far as I have observed, or ever learned from others, 
and in comparison, though smaller, much resembles 
some of the heron's structures. In some nests I have 
observed the materials are so loosely put together 
that the egg or young bird can be seen through the 



212 The Passenger Pigeon 

latticed bottom. In fact, it has been my custom to 
always thus examine the nests before climbing the 
tree. 

The platform structures vary in diameter from six 
to twelve inches or more, differing in size according to 
the length of the sticks, but generally are about nine or 
ten inches across. An acquaintance of mine had tamed 
some wild birds, which at last bred regularly in cap- 
tivity. These birds were well supplied with an abun- 
dance of material for their nests and always selected in 
confinement such as described above, and making a nest 
about nine inches in diameter. 

The breeding places are generally found in oak 
woods, but the great nesting sites in Michigan were 
often in timbered lands, I am informed. 

The height of the nest varies. It may be as low as 
six feet or all of sixty-five feet from the ground. 

Passenger Pigeons are always gregarious when un- 
molested, and hundreds of thousands sometimes breed 
in a neighborhood at one time. It is impossible to say 
how many nests were the most found in one tree, but 
there are authenticated instances of a hundred. One 
man, on whose veracity I rely, informs me that he 
counted no nests in one tree in Emmett County, the 
lower peninsula. Still this may not be correct, for we 
all know how easy it is to be deceived in correctly count- 
ing and keeping record of even the branches of a tree, 
and when these limbs are occupied by nests it is cer- 



Nesting Habits of the Pigeon 2 1 3 

tainly doubly difficult, and the tendency to count the 
same nests twice is increased. 

The first nests that I found were in large white oak 
trees at the edge of a pond. The date was May 17, 
1873. The nests were few in number and only one nest 
in a tree. There was but a single egg in a nest ; in fact 
this is all I have found at any time. The last nest that 
I have met with south of the forty-third parallel was 
forty feet up in a tamarack tree in a swamp near the 
river, June i, 1884. This nest was alone and would not 
have been discovered had not the birds flown to it. I 
have found several instances of pairs of pigeons build- 
ing isolated nests, and cannot help but think that if all 
birds had followed this custom that the pigeons would 
still be with us in vast numbers. 

As late as May 9, 1880, my lamented friend, the late 
C. W. Gunn, found a rookery in a cedar woods in Che- 
boygan County. These nests contained a single egg 
each, and he secured about fifty fresh eggs. He did not 
think their number excessive, as the netters were killing 
the birds in every direction. But now we can look upon 
such a trip almost as devastation because the birds are 
so scarce. 

In 1885 I met with the pigeon on Mackinac Island, 
and have found a few isolated flocks in the Lower 
Peninsula since then, generally In the fall, but it is safe 
to say that the birds will never again appear in one- 
thousandth part of the number of former years. 



214 The Passenger Pigeon 

The places where the birds are nesting are interesting 
spots to visit. Both parents incubate and the scene is 
animated as the birds fly about in all directions. How- 
ever, as the bulk of the birds must fly to quite a dis- 
tance from an immense rookery to find food, it neces- 
sarily follows that the main flocks arrive and depart 
evening and morning. Then the crush is often terrific 
and the air is fairly alive with birds. The rush of their 
thousands of wings makes a mighty noise like the sound 
of a stiff breeze through the trees. 

Often when the large flocks settle at the roost the 
birds crowd so closely on the slender limbs that they 
bend down and sometimes crack, and the sound of the 
dead branches falling from their weight adds an addi- 
tional likeness to a storm. Sometimes the returning 
birds will settle on a limb which holds nests and then 
many eggs are dashed to the ground, and beneath the 
trees of a rookery one may always find a lot of smashed 
eggs. 

Later In the season young birds may be seen perched 
all over the trees or on the ground, while big squabs 
with pin-feathers on are seen in, or rather on, the frail 
nests, or lying dead or injured on the ground. The 
frightful destruction that is sure to accompany the nest- 
ing of a rookery of Passenger Pigeons is bound to attract 
the observer's eye. And we cannot but understand how 
it is that these unprolific birds with many natural ene- 
mies, in addition to that unnatural enemy, man, fail to 



Nesting Habits of the Pigeon 2 1 5 

increase. If the pigeon deposited ten to twenty eggs 
like the quail the unequal battle of equal survival might 
be kept up. But even this is to be doubted if the bird 
continues to nest in colonies. 

Many ornithological writers have written that the 
wild pigeon lays two eggs as a rule, but these men were 
evidently not accurate observers, and probably took their 
records at second-hand. There is no doubt that two 
eggs are quite often found in a nest, and sometimes 
these eggs are both fresh, or else equally advanced in 
incubation. But these instances, I think, are evidences 
alone that two females have deposited in the same nest, 
a supposition which is not improbable with the gre- 
garious species. 

That the wild pigeon may rear two or three young in 
a season, I do not doubt, and an old trapper and ob- 
server has offered this theory to explain the condition 
where there are found both egg and young in the same 
nest, or squabs of widely varied ages. He asserts that 
when an egg is about ready to hatch, a second egg was 
deposited in the nest, and that the squab assisted in in- 
cubating the egg when the old birds were both away for 
food, and that in time a third and last egg was laid, so 
that three young were hatched each season, if the birds 
are unmolested. 

This peculiarity may exist with the pigeon, but I can 
add nothing to further it from my own observations, 
except to record the finding of an egg in the nest with 



21 6 The Passenger Pigeon 

a half-grown bird — the only instance in my experience. 
From watching the ways of some captive birds kept a3 
stool-pigeons, I am well satisfied that two young are not 
rarely hatched at some weeks apart, and they do fairly 
well in confinement. 

The young are fed by a process known as regurgita- 
tion, the partially digested contents of the birds' crops 
being ejected into the mouths of the squabs. 

The position of the nest varies greatly. Often the 
nests are well out on slender branches and in dangerous 
positions, considering the shiftlessness of the structure. 
When a rookery is visited, nests may be found in all 
manner of situation. I have found single nests built on 
small twigs next the body of an oak tree, and at a height 
of only ten feet, and again have seen nests forty feet up 
in thick tamaracks. 

The eggs do not vary much in size or color. They 
are white, but without the polish seen on the egg of the 
domestic pigeon. About one and one-half by one inch 
is the regulation size. 

By reference to old price lists of nearly a quarter of 
a century ago I find that the eggs were then listed at 
twenty-five cents, while it would be difficult to secure 
good specimens at present at six times the figure. 



CHAPTER XIX 
Miscellaneous Notes 

THE earliest mention of the wild pigeon I have 
been able to find is the following, taken from 
Forest and Stream, to which it was con- 
tributed by F. C. Browne, Framingham, Mass. It is 
from an old print entitled, "Two Voyages to New Eng- 
land, Made During the Years 1638-63," by John Josse- 
lyn, Gent. Published in 1674. I am not so fortunate as 
to possess an original copy. This extract is from the Bos- 
ton reprint of 1865, and is from the "Second Voyage" 
(1663), which has a full account of the wild beasts, 
birds and fishes of the new settlement: 

"The Pidgeons, of which there are millions of mil- 
lions. I have seen a flight of Pidgeons in the Spring, 
and at Michaelmas when they return back to the South- 
ward, for four or five miles, that to my thinking had 
neither beginning nor ending, length nor breadth, and 
so thick that I could see no Sun. They join Nest to 
Nest and Tree to Tree by their Nests many miles to- 
gether In Pine-Trees. I have bought at Boston a dozen 
Pidgeons ready pulled and garbidged for three pence. 
But of late they are much diminished, the English tak- 
ing them with Nets." 

217 



21 8 The Passenger Pigeon 

It will be noted that the wild pigeons began to be 
"much diminished" even at that early date. 

The following extract is from the journal of the 
voyage of Father Gravier in the year 1700: 

"Through the Country of the Illinois to the Mouth 
of the Mississippi." 

Under date of October 7th he says: 

"Below the mouth of the Ouabache (meaning the 
Wabash River), we saw such a great quantity of wild 
pigeons that the air was darkened and quite covered by 
them." 

The journal of Alexander Henry, the younger, writ- 
ten in August, 1800, states that large numbers of wild 
pigeons were seen and used for food by his party. This 
was at a point on the Red River not far north of what 
is now Grand Forks, N. D. 

The Passenger Pigeon found a place in a book called 
"Quebec and Its Environments; Being a Picturesque 
Guide to the Stranger." Printed by Thomas Cary & 
Co., Freemasons' Hall, Buade Street, 1831. A rare 
copy was found in the library of the late Charles Dean, 
having been purchased by him while visiting Quebec in 
1 84 1. It is now in the possession of Ruthven Deane of 
Chicago. I quote from this old guide-book as follows : 

"At one period of the year numerous and immense 
flights of pigeons visit Canada, when the population 
make a furious war against them both by guns and nets; 



Miscellaneous Notes 



219 



they supply the inhabitants with a material part of their 
subsistence, and are sold in the market at Quebec re- 
markably cheap, often as low as a shilling per dozen, 
and sometimes even at a less rate. It appears that the 
pigeon prefers the loftiest and most leafless tree to 
settle on. In addition to the natural beauty of St. Ann 
and its environs, the process by which the inhabitants 
take the pigeons is worth remarking. Upon the loftiest 
tree, long bare poles are slantingly fixed; small pieces 
of wood are placed transversely across this pole, upon 
which the birds crowd; below, in ambush, the sportsman 
with a long gun enfilades the whole length of the pole, 
and, when he fires, few if any escape. Innumerable 
poles are prepared at St. Ann for this purpose. The 
other method they have of taking them is by nets, by 
which means they are enabled to preserve them alive, 
and kill them occasionally for their own use or for the 
market, when it has ceased to be glutted with them. 
Behind Madam Fontane's this sport may be seen in per- 
fection. The nets, which are very large, are placed at 
the end of an avenue of trees (for it appears the pigeons 
choose an avenue to fly down) ; opposite a large tree, 
upon erect poles two nets are suspended, one facing the 
avenue, the other the tree; another Is placed over them, 
which is fixed at one end, and supported by pulleys and 
two perpendicular poles at the opposite; a man Is hid 
in a small covered house under the tree, with a rope 
leading from the pulleys In his hand. Directly the 



2 20 The Passenger Pigeon 

pigeons fly against the perpendicular nets, he pulls the 
rope, when the top net immediately falls and incloses 
the whole flock; by this process vast numbers are taken." 

"Tanner's Narrative," a story (authentic) of thirty 
years among the Indians, published in 1830, refers fre- 
quently to great numbers of pigeons, and gives their 
range from the Kentucky, Big Miami and Ohio Rivers 
to Lake Winnipeg, or "The Lake of Dirty Waters." 

Mr. Osborn further adds: "Tanner was a United 
States Indian Interpreter at the Soo." 

William Glazier made a trip to the headwaters of 
the Mississippi River In 1881 and wrote a book entitled 
"Down the Mississippi River." In three different 
places In this book he mentions seeing wild pigeons. In 
one place he says that a small flock of pigeons dropped 
down In the tops of some tall pines near him. 

In Hayden's Survey Report, Interior Department, as 
given In Coues' "Birds of the Northwest," 1874, it is 
mentioned that wild pigeons were found on the Pacific 
coast, and Cooper reports them In the Rocky Moun- 
tains. [High authority, but It must have referred to 
the band-tailed pigeon. — W. B. M.] 

From the foregoing chapters I have summarized the 
latest reports of the presence of the wild pigeon In Its 
former haunts. These Instances have been reported as 
follows : 



Miscellaneous Notes 221 

N. W. Judy & Co., St. Louis, Mo., the largest dealers 
in poultry and game In that section, said, in 1895, they 
had had no wild pigeons for two years; the last they 
received were from Siloam Springs, Ark. This would 
mean that they were on the market during the season of 
1893. Until 1890 frequent reports were recorded of 
pigeons seen singly, in pairs and in small flocks. 

In 1 89 1 Mr. F. M. Woodruff, Assistant Curator of 
the Chicago Academy of Sciences, secured a pair at 
Lake Forest, 111. 

A nest with two eggs and two birds were collected 
by C. B. Brown of Chicago in the spring of 1893 at 
English Lake, Ind. 

In September, 1893, three were reported In Lake 
County, 111. 

In April of the same year, a male pigeon was re- 
ported as having been seen In Lincoln Park, III, 

Mr. R. W. Stafford of Chicago, 111., reported seeing 
a flock In the latter part of September, 1894, at Ma- 
rengo, 111. 

Mr. John L. Stockton, Highland Park, 111., reported 
that while trout fishing on the Little Oconto River, 
Wis., early in June, 1895, he saw a flock of ten pigeons 
for several consecutive days near his camp. 

A young female was killed at Lake Forest, 111., In 
August, 1895. 



222 The Passenger Pigeon 

In October, 1895, Dr. Ernest Copeland of Mil- 
waukee killed one in Delta, Northern Peninsula, Mich. 

On December 17, 1896, C. N. Holden, Jr., while 
hunting quail in Oregon County, Mo., observed a flock 
of about fifty birds. 

Chief Pokagon reports there was a small nesting of 
pigeons near the head waters of the Au Sable River in 
Michigan, during the spring of 1896. 

A. Fugleburg of Oshkosh, Wis., reports that on the 
morning of August 14, 1897, he saw a flock of pigeons 
flying over Lake Winnebago from Fisherman's Island 
to Stony Brook. This flock was followed by six more 
flocks containing from thirty-five to eighty pigeons each. 
The same observer reports that on September 2, 1897, 
a friend of his reported having seen a flock of about 
twenty-five near Lake Butte des Mortes, Wis. 

W. F. Rightmire reports that while driving along 
the highway north of Cook, Johnson County, Neb., 
August 18, 1897, he saw a flock of seventy-five to one 
hundred birds; some feeding on the ground, others 
perched in the trees. 

A. B. Covert of Ann Arbor, President at one time of 
the Michigan Ornithological Club, reports seeing stray 
birds during 1892 and 1894, and states also that on 
October i, 1898, he saw a flock of 200 and watched 
them nearly all day. 



Miscellaneous Notes 



223 



T. E. Douglas of Grayling reports seeing a flock of 
ten near West Branch, Mich., in 1895, and in 1900 he 
saw three on one of the branches of the Au Sable River 
in Michigan. 

In 1897 C. S. Osborn of Sault Ste Marie reported 
having seen a single wild bird flying with the tame 
pigeons around the town. 

In 1897 or 1898 C. E. Jennison of Bay City saw six 
or seven at Thunder Bay Island near Alpena, Mich. 

In 1900 Neal Brown of Wausau, Wis., killed one 
near Babcock, Wis., in September. 

George King of Otsego County, Mich., in 1900 saw 
a flock of one dozen or more birds on the Black River, 
and he says he heard two "holler" in 1902, but was 
unable to find them. In May, 1905, he is certain he saw 
six near Vanderbilt, Mich. 

John Burroughs reports that a friend of his, Charles 
W. Benton, saw a large flock of wild pigeons near 
Prattsville, Greene County, N. Y., in April, 1906. 

EARLY LEGISLATION TO SAVE THE PIGEON 

Wild pigeons were used largely by trap-shooters for 
tournaments. In 1881, 20,000 of them were killed in 
one of these trap-shooting butcheries on Coney Island, 
N. Y. The following editorial protest against this out- 
rage appeared in Forest and Stream, July 14, 1881 : 



2 24 The Passenger Pigeon 

Mr. Bergh's Anti-Pigeon Bill. — Just as we go to 
press we learn that the Senate has passed the bill pre- 
pared by Mr. Henry Bergh prohibiting the trap-shoot- 
ing of pigeons. The bill awaits Governor Cornell's 
signature before becoming a law. Its provisions are: 

Section i. Any person Vvho shall keep or use any 
live pigeon, fowl, or other bird or animal for the pur- 
pose of a target or to be shot at either for amusement 
or as a test of skill in marksmanship, and any person 
who shall shoot at any pigeon, fowl, or other bird or 
animal, as aforesaid, or be a party to any such shooting 
of any pigeon, fowl or other bird or animal; and any 
person who shall rent any building, shed, room, yard, 
field, or other premises, or shall suffer or permit the use 
of any building, shed, room, yard, field, or other prem- 
ises for the purpose of shooting any pigeon, fowl, or 
other bird or animal, as aforesaid, shall be guilty of a 
misdemeanor. 

Section 2. Nothing herein contained shall apply to 
the shooting of any wild game in Its wild state. 

The bill Is a direct and not wholly unexpected result 
of the Coney Island pigeon-killing tournament of the 
New York State Association for the Protection of Fish 
and Game. Had the sport of pigeon shooting been con- 
fined to Individual clubs of gentlemen testing their skill 
at the traps, It Is doubtful If the matter ever would have 
received, as It would not have merited, public attention. 
But when a society, which organized ostensibly for the 



Miscellaneous Notes 225 

protection of game, treats the public to such a spectacle 
as that at Coney Island, neglects the matter with which 
it should be concerned and devotes 20,000 pigeons 
brought from their nesting ground to its wholesale 
slaughter, its members can hardly look for any other 
public sentiment than exactly that feeling which has 
been aroused. An afternoon's shoot at a few pigeons, 
and a ten days' shoot at unlimited numbers of helpless 
birds — many of them squabs, unable to fly, and others 
too exhausted to do so — are regarded by the public as 
two very different things. 



THE END 



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