On Sept. 1, 1914, a Cincinnati Zoological Gardens employee found the lifeless body of Martha, the world’s last living passenger pigeon, resting beneath her perch.
Forty years earlier, Martha’s ancestors numbered in the billions. Their flocks formed avian clouds across eastern North America, obstructing sunlight for days. The sight was so overwhelming that the American conservationist Aldo Leopold called them a “biological storm.”
By the early 1900s, only a handful of birds remained, and these were in captivity. How, in a few short decades, could one of the world’s most prodigious bird vanish from the sky? MORE
Header image: A male passenger pigeon on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. The last wild bird was shot in 1901, and Martha, the last captive bird, died on Sept. 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Credit: Tim Evanson/flickr, CC BY-SA.