In the 1800s, the Passenger Pigeon was the most common bird in North America. Huge clusters of birds like living black clouds would swirl across the sky, landing in trees and would rattle the ground with their collective sounds, which have been compared to the roar of a locomotive.
The Passenger Pigeon used its large numbers as its primary form of protection against predators. A hungry animal might easily take out a pigeon or two, but in a flock of several million, the casualties were low. Until they became the target of humans.
Hunters once boasted that they could wave a large pole in the air and knock several Passenger Pigeons out of the sky. As the railroad began stretching across the country, every train brought trappers and hunters, and returned with barrels packed full of the killed birds. They were shot, poisoned with whiskey-soaked corn, and even killed by burning the trees that housed their nests. There was no real attempt to save the Passenger Pigeon as its numbers dwindled, and the last known victim of hunting was in 1900.
One singular bird remained, a Passenger Pigeon named Martha. She lived in the Cincinnati Zoo until her death on September 1, 1914. She was roughly 29 years old, and was affected with a palsy that made her tremble. She never laid an egg that hatched, and the entire species died along with her.
Almost immediately afterward,the Passenger Pigeon Mite, a parasite that lived off of the now-extinct host, went extinct. The last Passenger Pigeon Mite died sometime in 1914.
It had never been given a name.
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