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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

15 Amaze-wing Facts About The Passenger Pigeon For Kids

Here are some interesting passenger pigeon facts that you will love reading!

The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is an example of how fast a species can be wiped off the Earth by the devastating power of humans. Once the most common bird in North America, the passenger pigeon once numbered in the billions, but in the frame of a single human lifespan, was driven into extinction.

The passenger pigeon was named so after the French word 'passager', due to the large flocks which passed by overheard every time they migrated. They were once abundant in the wild, however excessive hunting and attempting to control their species led to their complete extinction. After their species began to rapidly decline in the wild, attempts were made to breed these birds in captivity and reintroduce them into nature. However these efforts failed, and the last pigeon died in 1914 in a Cincinnati Zoo. They can still be seen as museum specimens, as later bodies of these birds were stuffed and preserved to keep their legacy alive.

To learn more about the devastating history of these birds, read on. For more relatable content, check out these Nicobar pigeon facts and Inca dove facts for kids.

Passenger Pigeon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a passenger pigeon?

The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was a type of wild bird.

What class of animal does a passenger pigeon belong to?

The passenger pigeon belonged to the class of Aves.

How many passenger pigeons are there in the world?

Unfortunately due to the over-hunting of this species and the rapid loss of its habitat due to industrialization and development, it is now extinct and cannot be found anywhere in the world.

Where does a passenger pigeon live?

The passenger pigeon habitat was mostly found across North America, notably east of the Rocky Mountains and in southern Canada.

What is a passenger pigeon's habitat?

The passenger pigeon was mostly found in large deciduous hardwood forests, which they preferred for their roosting and nesting purposes. Their huge flocks would take up entire forests, often settling at the edge of farms and agricultural fields due to their love of grains. The cutting down of the forests due to the advancement of civilizations and the onset of industrialization also played a large part in the extinction of this species.

Who do passenger pigeons live with?

Passenger pigeons were found in huge flocks and usually made their nests in the same trees. There have been reports of large nesting colonies, which these birds formed during the breeding season every year.

How long does a passenger pigeon live?

The exact lifespan of passenger pigeons is unknown, however, we know that these birds lived for at least 15 years, and the last passenger pigeon died at an age of 29 years!

How do they reproduce?

The breeding period of these pigeons typically lasted from late March to May. They were migrating birds, which arrived at their breeding grounds around the beginning of the breeding season to build their nests and mate. These birds typically bred on branches, through an intense mating ritual which consisted of the male flapping its wings to attract the female's attention, and a lot of preening. The egg produced was then laid in a crude nest built out of twigs and grass, and incubated for around 12-14 days by both the male and female. They then took care of the fledgling for around 20-30 days, after which they abandoned it to live on its own. These pigeons reached reproductive maturity at the age of one year.

What is their conservation status?

The passenger pigeon is officially extinct due to the activities of humans. Despite being an abundant bird, existing in huge flocks in forests, these birds were considered as a threat to agricultural crops and were shot on sight. They were also a primary source of food for Native Americans and early colonial settlers, which led to the rapid decline in their population. These factors, along with being naturally hunted by predators and their low birth rate (only one egg per nesting pair at a time), led to the untimely demise of this species as a whole. The last passenger pigeon died in 1914.

Passenger Pigeon Fun Facts

What do passenger pigeons look like?

Male and female passenger pigeons exhibited different characteristics. The males were slightly bigger than the females and had grayish-brown backs that converged to brown on the tail feathers. The lower tail feathers were white, and the wings were grayish-brown and had small black spots. They had pinkish throats which converged with the white on their bellies. They had black beaks and bright red feet.

The females had similar backs, tails, and wings to the male, with the exception of their underbellies which were light brown in color. They were duller than their male counterparts, with their feathers having no shine to them.

Their eye colors were also different, with males having purple-red eyes and females having orange and grayish-blue eyes.

The male pigeon was quite striking, with multicolored, iridescent feathers.

How cute are they?

Male passenger pigeons had multicolored, shiny feathers which made them quite striking in appearance. The females, despite not being as colorful, were also quite cute.

How do they communicate?

These birds had undecidedly unmusical voices and were known to communicate through a series of harsh, croaky notes. Large flocks of these birds were known to sound deafening to the human ear. They also made loud, alarm noises when faced with any threat. Their voices sounded like bell-like chimes during mating season, and they were known to coo like modern pigeons while nesting.

They also used head movements and flapped their wings threateningly if they sensed any danger.

How big is a passenger pigeon?

These birds were around 15-16.1 in (38.1-41 cm) in length, meaning they were slightly bigger than the common pigeons we see today, also known as rock doves, which are around 11-13 in (28-33 cm) but smaller than great-crested flycatchers.

How fast can a passenger pigeon fly?

The passenger pigeon had long, pointed wings, wedge-shaped tails, and a very streamlined shape, making it possible for them to reach great speeds. They have been recorded to fly at speeds of 62 mph (100 kph).

How much does a passenger pigeon weigh?

The weight of passenger pigeons had a range of 9.2- 12 oz. (260-340 g) . They are a bit lighter than German nun pigeons.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no special names for either sex of this species, the males simply being called cocks and the females as hens.

What would you call a baby passenger pigeon?

Baby passenger pigeons were called squabs or hatchlings.

What do they eat?

The passenger pigeon diet was omnivorous in nature, varying with the season and place they were in. They used their beaks to scour the forest floors for food, digging out insects or eating fallen beechnuts and acorns. They were also very fond of berries, known to enjoy blueberries, cherries, and mulberries, and also taking advantage of local harvests to feed on grains or fruits. This led to them being labeled as pests and threats to local civilizations. They were useful in helping to disperse seeds, owing to their largely granivorous tastes.

Are they dangerous?

Though they were not dangerous if solitary, huge flocks of these pigeons were seen as a menace to society. They would often block out the sky due to the vastness of these colonies and were known to break the limbs of trees by communally roosting on them. They would often wipe out whole fields in their search for food and were seen as a threat to the local ecosystems and civilizations. This led to them being hunted in masses, which ultimately led to their extinction.

Would they make a good pet?

Since they are extinct, they cannot be kept as pets.

Even if these pigeons existed today, they probably wouldn't have made good pets due to their flighty nature and ingrained social behavior to stay in flocks. They were quite pesky in behavior and would have been difficult to domesticate and train. They also had very loud, harsh voices, which wouldn't have been pleasant to hear.

Did you know...

A nesting ground of around 136 million birds was recorded in Wisconsin in 1871, spreading over 850 sq mi (2202 sq km) in area.

Due to their rapid decline, an effort was made in the early 1900s to attempt to breed them, and finding a pair of nesting pigeons could lead to the claiming of a reward.

The last passenger pigeon known to exist was named Martha and was born and kept in the Cincinnati Zoo until her death in 1914, at which time she was 29 years old. She was taxidermized and is still on display at the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian. There are also many more museum specimens of this species, being found in museums all over the world to preserve their legacy.

John James Audubon, a French-American oncologist and painter, wrote and illustrated an essay on the passenger pigeon, which is known for his intricately detailed drawings of this species.

There are efforts being made by Scientists to bring this bird back into existence, by using the DNA of its closest living relative species.

How did the passenger pigeon go extinct?

The earliest known record of passenger pigeons being hunted was by Native Americans, for whom they were a staple. However, the main cause of the extinction of these birds happened much later, after colonizers came to America and started building settlements.

Wild passenger pigeons were known to travel and live in absurdly large flocks, which sometimes caused them to become a menace to any nearby settlements of people. They ravaged crops in their search for food and caused chaos with their constant wandering and deafening calls, making them pests. This led to them being shot on sight, and it didn't help that the passenger pigeon was a very social bird and would fly in large flocks without much awareness about these threats.

Deforestation, loss of habitat, and the slow and low rate at which the pigeons laid eggs also played a part in this species being wiped off the face of the Earth.

What is the difference between a passenger pigeon and a regular pigeon?

The wild pigeon which we know today is called the rock dove. They belong to a different genus than that of the passenger pigeon and look quite different as well. The rock dove is mostly gray and black, with iridescent green feathers on its neck, whereas the passenger pigeon was more of a brownish-gray and had a pink underbelly. It was also slightly larger than a regular pigeon and was slimmer and more athletic-looking than the squat, stocky pigeons we see today.

The common pigeon however is known to be faster, reaching a speed of 93 mph (150 kph), also being faster than the passenger pigeon. It also is usually not seen in flocks, probably due to adapting to today's urban surroundings which make it difficult for birds to flock together as much.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our diamond dove facts and ringneck dove facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Passenger pigeon coloring pages.

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