A Shadow Over the Earth:
The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon

Sept. 1, 2014 – Feb. 1, 2015 | Free admission

This exhibition tells the story of the Passenger Pigeon, which once numbered in the billions, and the human influence on its extinction. Highlights include personal accounts from famed naturalists who documented its biology and decline. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about related Florida Museum research and view a well-preserved pair of Passenger Pigeons mounted in the 1890s. The exhibit explores the idea of learning from the past and provides hope for the future as scientists continue to unravel the complexities of extinction and use this knowledge to make a difference in the world today.

 

Exhibit Highlights

  • Illustrations, Artwork and Poetry
    View historical, full-color illustrations of Passenger Pigeons. Learn about their natural behavior and why they became extinct so quickly through the writings, drawings and poetry of famous artists and naturalists.
  • Real Passenger Pigeon Specimens
    Get a close-up view of these spectacular birds. Although Passenger Pigeons are extinct, the Florida Museum Ornithology Division has specimens preserved for research, two of which are displayed in the exhibit.
  • Species on the Brink
    Learn about today’s conservation success stories!
  • Museum Research
    Florida Museum of Natural History ornithologists have been researching endangered and extinct species of pigeons and doves from around the world for 20 years.

 

Passenger Pigeon mounted specimen

These well-preserved Passenger Pigeons mounted in the 1890s are part of a new exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of the bird’s extinction. Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

Did you know?

  • Passenger Pigeons were once North America’s most abundant bird, with an estimated population of 3 billion to 5 billion. They gathered in numbers that could darken the sky for days.
  • The pigeons lived alongside humans for thousands of years, as reflected in everyday language such as “clay pigeon shooting,” police informers being referred to as “stool pigeons” and the city of Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • Within decades, human actions reduced this incredible bounty of birds to zero, when on Sept 1, 1914, the last of the species died.
  • Museum Passenger Pigeon specimens are part of the Charles Doe Collection, which formed the early foundation of the Museum’s ornithology collection.

 

Acknowledgements

Exhibits - Project Passenger Pigeon logoThis exhibit was developed by the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History and the Florida Museum of Natural History. Find out more at Project Passenger Pigeon, passengerpigeon.org.