News Column

Passenger pigeon exhibits planned: Science museum adds specimen to its collection

August 30, 2014

By Stephanie Salmons, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

Aug. 30--Before they were hunted to extinction, passenger pigeons were plentiful.

According to information on, it's estimated the passenger pigeon was once the most abundant land bird in North America, with numbers reaching an estimated 3 billion to 5 billion.

"It is reported they darkened the sky for hours or even days at a time," the site reads. "The beats of their wings would create drafts that chilled the people over whom they flew."

Monday marks the centenary of the species' extinction. The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died Sept. 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo.

"There's never been a time you can say 'this is when this species went extinct,'" said Kathy Olson, director of the Owensboro Museum of Science and History.

According to Olson, the museum has a specimen in its collection and will open an exhibit related to the species in September. They'll bring in speakers, trying to have at least one a month for six months, and use the opportunity to educate people on biodiversity and conservation, she said. Specific dates have not been set at this time.

"Not every museum has a passenger pigeon in its collection," she said. "We're lucky to have an extinct species like that in our collection."

The museum will also schedule a date to show the documentary "From Billions to None," about the birds' extinction.

With the upcoming events, people will learn more about the bird they see in the museum and the history will tell a new generation what it was like in the early and mid-1800s and before to have these birds in the sky, Olson said.

"It was truly a phenomenon no one ever forgot when they saw it," she said. "We want to remind people the only reason they're extinct is because we hunted them to death."

Everything on Earth is connected, Olson said.

"If you think about it as a tapestry and start pulling out threads, 'this is gone and this is gone', ... the whole thing come unraveled," she said. "That's what we want to get across. We're all connected."

Stephanie Salmons


Twitter: @StephReports


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Source: Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY)

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