Martha, The Last American Dove

MarthaOne hundred years ago today, Martha, a 29-year-old passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.

She was the last survivor of a breed which used to be the most populous in North America, perhaps accounting for a quarter of all birds on the Continent, and possibly in the world.  Social creatures, they travelled in enormous million-member flocks.

The extinction was caused by an enormous human appetite for pigeon meat.  By 1900, the dangers of extinction were recognised but the doves had already been reduced to numbers lower than that required for successful long-term breeding.

I believe we should all remember Martha and ponder the devastation caused by human cupidity.


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