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Passenger Pigeons: Topics in Chronicling America

A guide for researching the topic of "passenger pigeons" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

The Colfax Chronicle. April 15, 1911. Colfax, LA, Image 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, so numerous that they “darkened the sun with their flights.” In 1915, the passenger pigeon officially becomes extinct as the last bird dies in Chicago. How could this have happened? In the early 19th century, massive deforestation and overhunting leads to the passenger pigeon’s ultimate demise. Efforts to conserve the species are too little and too late. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

November 28, 1889 Passenger pigeons, once populous, have now become a “rarity”; however, they are still actively hunted.
May 4, 1908 An article calls for the protection of passenger pigeons from overhunting, listing facts about the species.
December 8, 1910 There is only one passenger pigeon left, spending its days in the Zoological garden in Cincinnati.
April 15, 1911 An article documents the disappearance of the passenger pigeons, and how there is a $400 cash reward for anyone who finds the nest of a passenger pigeon.
February 1913 The last passenger pigeon in the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens falls ill.
May 1915 The last passenger pigeon dies in Chicago at the age of twenty-seven years.
June 1915 There is an unfounded rumor that the US Department of Agriculture is offering a $10,000 reward for the person who finds a passenger pigeon nest.
June 22, 1916 An article claims that the passenger pigeon is not extinct, and that the bird will once again become numerous.