Exhibit Dates: January 17 to March 30, 2019
In the Wake of the Passenger Pigeon
May 11, 2019 to September 28, 2019
About the Exhibit
Nobody alive today has ever seen a Passenger Pigeon, the species has been extinct for over a century - and yet the bird continues to be adopted as a unique symbol for the Etobicoke Lakeshore community. The legacy of a species once considered the most numerous in the Americas has often been reflected as a story of loss. In the Wake of the Passenger Pigeon is an exploration of the groups, organizations, and people that have repurposed the bird as a rallying symbol for community, sustainability, and aesthetics.
Interpretive Centre team:
Jennifer Bazar, Curator
Nadine Finlay, Assistant Curator
In Partnership with:
With loans from:
Click on the playlist, or follow along with the score below, inspired by the 1910-1911 paper written by Wallace Craig entitled "The Expressions of Emotion in the Pigeons."
Created with thanks to Colin Finlay for musical talents, and Nadine Finlay for sound editing.
Citation: Craig, Wallace. “The Expressions of Emotion in the Pigeons. III. The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes Migratorius Linn.).” <i>The Auk</i>, vol. 28, no. 4, 1911, pp. 408–427. <i>JSTOR</i>, www.jstor.org/stable/4071160. Accessed 13 Aug. 2021.
Film Screening of “Lost Bird Project”
With panel discussion featuring local birders Nancy Barrett & Tim McCarthy
June 13, 2019
Screening of the documentary film “Lost Bird Project” which follows sculptor Todd McGrain as he sets out to create a series of bronze memorials to five birds that are now extinct in North America. The film follows his two-year journey as the project moved from the tropical swamps of Florida to the rocky coasts of Newfoundland.
Following the documentary, birders Nancy Barrett and Tim McCarthy will both share their reflections on the film and connect it to local projects aims at raising awareness and protecting bird species who are at risk today.
Short Story Reading featuring Scott Colby
July 17, 2019
Short story reading and discussion with local author Scott Colby as he reflects on the local symbolism inherent in the story of the Passenger Pigeon. Visit Scott Colby's Website.
Hope is the Thing with Feathers: Presentation
by Joel Greenberg
Date: Wednesday, August 14
Joel Greenberg's presentation "Hope is a Thing with Feathers" investigated three bird species, each representing a different outcome at the hands of human interaction. Joel has over 30 years of experience working on natural resource related issues in the Midwest on behalf of various governmental agencies, NGOs, and private companies.
He has also authored four books, including Of Prairie, Woods, and Waters: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing; A Natural History of the Chicago Region; and – most relevant to the evening’s events – "A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction."
Silencing a Feathered Tempest: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon featuring Glenn Coady
September 19, 2019
Once the most numerous bird in North America, the Passenger Pigeon became extinct in 2014. The final event in the Series brought local expert Glenn Coady to share the story of the end of the species through research, stories, and history.
More about Passenger Pigeons:
Where did they migrate from?
The Passenger Pigeon could be found across central and eastern North America, migrating from the north of the Mississippi in the southern United States to the southern regions of Canada. They migrated regularly both in search of food (nuts, berries, grains, bugs – worms, catepillars, snails) and nesting grounds (deciduous forests) – they were a nomadic species.
The birds commonly wintered in the southern US near Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, and northern Florida. They tended to be found in large swamps during this period of the year.
Passenger Pigeons were known for migrating in immense flocks. They were estimated to be the most numerous bird in North America, estimates range from 3-5 billion at their peak.
Why were they common in this area?
Passenger Pigeons bred primarily in southern Ontario and the Great Lakes region but were common to the deciduous forests throughout Eastern North America.
Why did they die out?
Passenger Pigeons did serve as a food source for some Indigenous communities but it was the arrival of Europeans that brought about their extinction. Their meat was popular due to its relatively inexpensive cost which resulted in over-hunting. Ease of communication among hunters through the advent of the telegraph and the train network have also been connected as contributing causes to their extinction. Deforestation and habitat destruction were other contributing factors.
When did they become extinct?
The Passenger Pigeon population began to decline through the nineteenth century with the biggest drop in numbers occurring between 1870-1890. The last confirmed bird to have been killed in the wild was shot in 1901; the last bird to die in captivity was Martha in 1913 in the Cincinnati Zoo.
What about cloning?
There are more than 1,532 Passenger Pigeon skins, including 16 skeletons, in existence in institutions around the world. There has been much discussion re: “reviving” the species using the available genetic materials. Part of the struggle has been the fact that the DNA of the existing specimens is contaminated and degraded. But it is something that is being explored – although not without controversy (some people question why we should try to bring back a species when so many others are at risk).