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PASSENGER PIGEON PLATE FROM STUDERS BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA
This is an original old colored plate from the famous book on North American birds by Jacob Henry Studer (1840-1904). BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, New York: Published under the auspices of the Natural Science Association of America, 1903. There were over 100 full-color plates in the imperial quarto volume of which this is PLATE XXIX – The Passenger Pigeon.
The Passenger Pigeon was once the most common bird in North America. It is estimated that there were as many as five billion passenger pigeons in the United States at the time Europeans colonized North America. They lived in enormous flocks, and during migration, it was possible to see flocks of them a mile (1.6 km) wide and 300 miles (500 km) long, taking several days to pass and containing up to a billion birds. Over the 19th century, the species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world to extinction. There was a slow decline in their numbers between about 1800 and 1870, followed by a catastrophic decline between 1870 and 1890, at the end of which they were rare and beyond the point of recovery. 'Martha', thought to be the world's last passenger pigeon, died on September 1, 1914 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This beautiful chromolithographed print measures 11 5/8” x about 14 ˝”. The left edge is somewhat uneven where it was detached from the volume, and there is one small tear along the top edge, but otherwise the print is in quite good condition as shown in scan. Ready for matting, framing & display.
Though LONG, the following is only a small PART of the information that appeared in Studer’s book with this plate:
The Passenger Pigeon. (Eclotistes migratorius.)
The Passenger Pigeon, or, as it is commonly called, the " Wild Pigeon," are the gypsies among birds. They are everywhere and nowhere. From Hudson's Bay down to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains to the eastern coast, and in all the States of North America, is found the Passenger Pigeon-at no time in equal numbers, generally more in number in the Eastern and Middle than in the Northern and Southern States.
Audubon and, before him, Wilson relate the most wonderful stories concerning the numbers of these Pigeons during their wanderings. We quote from Audubon as follows:
"' Their great power of flight enables them to survey and pass over an astonishing extent of country in a very short time. Thus, Pigeons have been killed in the neighborhood of New York with their crops full of rice, which they must have collected in the fields of Georgia and Carolina; these districts being the nearest in which they could possibly have procured a supply of food As their power of digestion is so great, that they will decompose food entirely in twelve hours, they must, in this case, have traveled between three and four hundred miles in six hours, which shows their speed to be, at an average, about one mile in a minute. A velocity such as this, would enable one of these birds, were it so inclined, to visit the
European continent in less than three days."
" In the autumn of I8I3, I left my house at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. In passing over the barrens, a few miles beyond Hardinsburgh, I observed the Pigeons flying from northeast to southwest in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before. I traveled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons. The light of the noonday was obscured as by an eclipse. The dung fell in spots not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of the wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose.
" Before sunset I reached Louisville, distant from Hardinsburgh fifty-five miles. The Pigeons were still passing in undiminished numbers, and continued to do so for three days in succession. The people were all in arms. The banks of the Ohio were crowded
with men and boys, incessantly shooting at the pilgrims, which there flew lower as they passed the river. Multitudes were thus destroyed. For a week or more, the population fed on no other flesh than that of Pigeons. The atmosphere was, during this time, strongly impregnated with the peculiar odor which emanates from the species."
In estimating the number of these mighty flocks, and the food consumed by them daily, he adds: "1 Let us take a column of one mile in breadth, which is- far below the average
size, and suppose it passing over us at the rate of one mile per minute. This will give us a parallelogram of 180 miles by one, covering 180 square miles; and allowing two Pigeons to the square yard, we have one billion one hundred and fifteen millions one hundred and thirty-six thousand Pigeons in one flock; and as every Pigeon consumes daily fully half a pint, the quantity required to feed such a flock, must be eight millions seven hundred and twelve thousand bushels per day."
" Let us now, kind reader, inspect their place of nightly rendezvous: It was, as is always the case, in a portion of the forest where the trees were of great magnitude, and where there was
little underwood. I rode through it upward of forty miles, and, crossing it at different parts, found its average breadth to be rather more than three miles. Few Pigeons were to be seen before sunset; but a great number of persons, with horses and wagons, guns and ammunition, had already established encampments on the borders. Two farmers from the vicinity of Russellsville, distant more than a hundred miles, had driven upward of three hundred hogs, to be fattened on the Pigeons which were to be slaughtered. Here and there, the people employed in plucking and salting what had already been procured, were seen sitting in the midst of large piles of these birds. The dung lay several inches deep, covering the whole extent of the roosting-place, like a bed of snow. Many trees, two feet in diameter, I observed were broken off at no great distance from the ground; and the branches of many of the largest
and tallest had given way as if the forest had been swept by a tornado. Everything proved to me that the number of birds resorting to this part of the forest, must be immense beyond conception. As the period of their arrival approached, their foes anxiously prepared to seize them. Some were furnished with iron pots containing sulphur, others with torches of pine-knots, many with poles, and the rest with guns. The sun was lost to our view. yet not a Pigeon had arrived. Everything was ready, and all eyes were gazing on the clear sky, which appeared in glimpses amidst the tall trees. Suddenly there burst forth a general cry of
' Here they come!' The noise which they made, though yet distant, reminded me of a hard gale at sea, passing through the rigging of a close-reefed vessel. As the birds arrived and passed over me, I felt a current of air that surprised me. Thousands were soon knocked down by polemen. The current of birds, however, still kept increasing. The fires were lighted, and a most magnificent, as well as a wonderful and terrifying sight, presented itself. The Pigeons coming in by thousands alighted everywhere, one above another, until solid masses, as large as hogsheads, were formed on every tree, in all directions. Here and there the perches gave way under the weight with a crash, and falling to the ground, destroyed hundreds of the birds beneath, forcing down the dense groups with which every stick was loaded. It was a scene of uproar and confusion. I found it quite useless to speak, or even to shout, to those persons who were nearest me. The reports, even, of the nearest guns were seldom heard; and I knew of the firing only by seeing the shooters reloading. No one dared venture within the line of devastation; the hogs had been penned up in due time, the picking up of the dead and wounded birds being left for the next morning's employment. The Pigeons were constantly coming, and it was past midnight before I perceived a decrease in the number of those that arrived. The uproar continued, however, the whole night; and as I was anxious to know to what distance the sound reached, I sent off a man, accustomed to perambulate the forest, who, returning two hours afterward, informed me he had heard it distinctly when three miles from the spot. Toward the approach of day, the noise rather subsided; but long ere objects
were at all distinguishable, the Pigeons began to move off in a direction quite different from that in which they had arrived the evening before; and at sunrise, all that were able to fly had disappeared. The howlings of the wolves now reached our ears; and the foxes, lynxes, cougars, bears, raccoons, opossums, and polecats were seen sneaking off from the spot, whilst Eagles and Hawks of different species, accompanied by a crowd of Vultures, came to
supplant them, and enjoy their share of the spoil. It was then that the authors of all this devastation began their entry among the dead, the dying, and the mangled. The Pigeons were picked up and piled in heaps, until each had as many ash he could possibly dispose of, when the hogs were let loose to feed on the remainder." Now this sounds fabulous, but we will not dispute its truth, although it is not in accordance with our observations. We have in our
rambles through the United States frequently met even with very large flocks, but they certainly did not reach to one-quarter the number mentioned by Audubon. Several roosts were visited at different places, but they fell considerably short of the above account, though persons with whom we conversed at these roosts fully corroborated Audubon. The immense numbers of Wild Pigeons that flew over my head toward the roost would appear almost incredible to those who have never observed it. As regards the rapidity of the flight of the Passenger Pigeons, we relate an incident that occurred in the spring of 1849, in New York city. About two dozen Wild Pigeons, who had their crops filled with rice, were shot by me, and they certainly had only early that morning fed in the rice-fields of Carolina. It was about I0:30 A. m. when they were shot, but they appeared tired, and did not show their usual shyness.
The migrations of the Passenger Pigeon seem to be undertaken more in search of better feeding-places than of a desire to avoid cold climates. They are found in the northern part of this continent as late as December and January. Their appearance is casual and irregular, like the Crossbills; they visit districts for several consecutive years regular and in large numbers, and then for a time there is not a single pair of them to be seen. Almost every year large flocks of the Passenger Pigeon can be seen in the several parts of North America, but they are only straggling parties. The large flocks are mostly seen in the Western States,
where there is an abundance of food. As a general thing, it creates considerable excitement among the people when a Pigeon roost is discovered. Parties will come a great distance, armed with any kind of a gun or shooting-arm, to enjoy the sport and procure their part of the spoils. Toward night, when the birds return to the roost from their feeding-places, the shooting commences, the sportsman selecting his ground for his particular shooting-place. The Pigeons that are not wounded so as to drop down, fly off soon after the discharge by the gunner; and before the hunter has reloaded his field-piece, others have taken the place, and the shooting is repeated as long as there is light to attend to the guns. Collections are usually made in the morning, the supply generally being sufficient for all.
A curious circumstance regarding these birds is, that in a single tree I found sixty-two nests, and by far the most nests contained but one young Pigeon. Whenever there are two young squabs in the same nest, they are invariably a pair-male and female. The breeding-place of the Passenger Pigeon is always chosen with good judgment, usually a high-timbered forest, where there is an abundance of beech-nuts and acorns, and where water is not far
distant. The highest trees are selected to build their nests in. The voice of the bird at this interesting time is soft, resembling the words " coo, coo, coo," while at other times they will utter a quick "ki, ki, ki." The male shows at this time a proud carriage, and follows his chosen female, on the ground as on the branches, with spread tail and hanging wing, which he seems to drag after him. The body is carried in a more perpendicular position, the
head being pressed forward; his eyes sparkle; he utters his "coo, coo, coo," lifting now and then his dropping wings, and flies a few yards forward, returning to his beloved female with caresses, and feeding her from his crop. After these preludes they commence to build the nest. This consists of a few dry twigs in the fork of a branch, and is very loosely put together, single trees containing from fifty to a hundred nests. The eggs which the nest contains
are much rounded and pure white, the full complement being two to a nest. While the female sits, she is fed by the male, who during this time shows great care and tenderness for his mate. The young are fed by both parents until they are able to take care of themselves, after which they leave their parents and begin to wander.
The flesh of the Wild Pigeon is in no great esteem, it being rather dry and of a very dark color, although when kept in 'cages and fed on corn and buckwheat for some time, their flesh
acquires great superiority.
In captivity, the Passenger Pigeon is easily kept for a number of years, and readily propagate. There is no zoological garden where this species is wanting.
Buyer pays $5.00 postage & handling in US, plus USPS insurance.
VA residents add 5% sales tax to selling price.
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