Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon
Passenger Pigeon
Live Passenger Pigeon in 1898
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Genus: †Ectopistes
Swainson, 1827
Species: †E. migratorius
Binomial name
†Ectopistes migratorius
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The Passenger Pigeon or Wild Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was a bird, now extinct, that existed in North America and lived in enormous migratory flocks until the early 20th century. One sighting in 1866 in southern Ontario was described as being 1 mile wide, 300 miles long, and taking 14 hours to pass a single point with number estimates in excess of 3.5 billion birds in the flock. That number, if accurate, would likely represent a large fraction of the entire population at the time.[1][2]

Some estimate that there were 3 billion to 5 billion Passenger Pigeons in the United States when Europeans arrived in North America.[3] Others argue that the species had not been common in the Pre-Columbian period, but their numbers grew when devastation of the American Indian population by European diseases led to reduced competition for food.[4]

The species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century to extinction early in the 20th century.[5] At the time, Passenger Pigeons had one of the largest groups or flocks of any animal, second only to the Rocky Mountain locust.

Some reduction in numbers occurred because of habitat loss when the Europeans started settling further inland. The primary factor emerged when pigeon meat was commercialized as a cheap food for slaves and the poor in the 19th century, resulting in hunting on a massive scale. There was a slow decline in their numbers between about 1800 and 1870, followed by a catastrophic decline between 1870 and 1890.[6] Martha, thought to be the world's last Passenger Pigeon, died on September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo.

In the 18th century, the Passenger Pigeon in Europe was known to the French as tourtre; but, in New France, the North American bird was called tourte. Tourtière, a traditional meat-pie originating from Quebec and associated with French-Canadian culture, was so-named because tourte was historically a key ingredient. Today, the dish is typically made from pork and/or veal, or beef. In modern French, the bird is known as the pigeon migrateur.

In Algonquian languages, it was called amimi by the Lenape and omiimii by the Ojibwe. The term passenger pigeon in English derives from the French word passager, meaning to pass by.



The Passenger Pigeon was larger than a Mourning Dove and had a body size similar to a large Rock Pigeon. The average weight of these pigeons was 340-400 grams (12-14 oz) and, per John James Audubon's account, length was 42 cm (16.5 in) in males and 38 cm (15 in) in females.[7] The Passenger Pigeon had a bluish gray head and rump, slate gray back, and a wine red breast. The male had black streaks on the scapulars and wing coverts and patches of pinkish iridescence at the sides of the neck changed in color to a shining metallic bronze, green, and purple at the back of the neck in various lights. Female and immature birds were similar marked but with duller gray on the back, a lighter rose breast and much less iridescent necks.[8] The tail was extremely long at 20–23 cm (8–9 in) and gray to blackish with a white edge.[9]


Distribution map of Ectopistes migratorius, with breeding zone in red and wintering zone in orange

During summer, Passenger Pigeons lived in forest habitats throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains from eastern and central Canada to the northeast United States. In the winters, they migrated to the southern U.S. and occasionally to Mexico and Cuba.

Taxonomy and systematics

The Passenger Pigeon is a member of the Columbidae family (pigeons and doves) that has been assigned to the genus Ectopistes. Earlier descriptions of the species placed the population with the genus Columba, but it was transferred to the monotypic genus (no fossil ancestors known[verification needed]) due to the greater length of the tail and wings. The generic epithet translates as 'wandering about', the specific indicates that it is migratory; the Passenger Pigeon's movements were not only seasonal, as with other birds, they would amass in whatever location was most productive and suitable for breeding.[10]

The Passenger Pigeon's closest living relative were thought to be the Zenaida doves (e.g. Mourning Dove Z. macroura),.[11][12][13] Some have suggested using Mourning Doves for cloning the Passenger Pigeon in the future.[14] However, in 2010 genetic data showed it was closer to the American pigeons Patagioenas.[15] Rather than belonging (like Zenaida) to the American dove clade around Leptotila, the DNA sequence data show Ectopistes to be part of a radiation that includes the "typical" Old World pigeons (e.g. Domestic Pigeon Columba livia) and the Eurasian turtledoves (Streptopelia) and Patagioenas, as well as the cuckoo-doves and relatives of the Wallacea region and its surroundings.[16] If anything, Ectopistes is closer to the former, but relationships within this Columbidae lineage are not fully resolved yet.


Nest and egg
Egg of Ectopistes migratorius

The Passenger Pigeon was a very social bird. It lived in colonies stretching over hundreds of square miles, practicing communal breeding with up to a hundred nests in a single tree. Pigeon migration, in flocks numbering billions, was a spectacle without parallel:

Early explorers and settlers frequently mentioned Passenger Pigeons in their writings. Samuel de Champlain in 1605 reported "countless numbers," Gabriel Sagard-Theodat wrote of "infinite multitudes," and Cotton Mather described a flight as being about a mile in width and taking several hours to pass overhead. Yet by the early 1900s no wild Passenger Pigeons could be found.
The Smithsonian Encyclopedia[3]

There was safety in large flocks which often numbered hundreds of thousands of birds. When a flock of this huge a size established itself in an area, the number of local animal predators (such as wolves, foxes, weasels, and hawks) was so small compared to the total number of birds that little damage would be inflicted on the flock as a whole. It was common for passenger pigeon flocks to literally perch on each other's backs, an unusual behavior even for socially-inclined birds. This colonial way of life and communal breeding became very dangerous when humans began to hunt the pigeons. When the Passenger Pigeons were massed together, especially at a huge nesting site, it was easy for people to slaughter them in such great numbers that there were not enough birds left to successfully reproduce the species.[17] As the flocks dwindled in size with resulting breakdown of social facilitation, it was doomed to disappear.[18]

The mainstays of the passenger pigeon's diet were beechnuts, acorns, chestnuts, seeds, and berries found in the forests. Worms and insects supplemented the diet in spring and summer. The time of the spring migration depended on weather conditions. Small flocks sometimes arrived in the northern nesting areas as early as February, but the main migration occurred in March and April.

The nesting sites were established in forest areas that had a sufficient supply of food and water available within daily flying range. A single site might cover many thousands of acres and the birds were so congested in these areas that hundreds of nests could be counted in a single tree. A large nesting in Wisconsin was reported as covering 850 square miles, and the number of birds nesting there was estimated at 136,000,000. The nests were loosely constructed of small sticks and twigs and were about a foot in diameter. A single, white, elongated egg was laid per nesting. The incubation period was from twelve to fourteen days. Both parents shared the duties of incubating the egg and feeding the young. The young bird was naked and blind when born, but grew and developed rapidly. When feathered it was similar in color to that of the adult female, but its feathers were tipped with white, giving it a scaled appearance. It remained in the nest about fourteen days, being fed and cared for by the parent birds. By this time it had grown large and plump and usually weighed more than either of its parents. It had developed enough to take care of itself and soon fluttered to the ground to hunt for its food.[8]

Causes of extinction

Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, juvenile (left), male (center), female (right).

The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon has two major causes. The primary cause is held to be the commercial exploitation (unregulated hunting) of pigeon meat on a massive scale.[3] But current examination also focuses on the pigeon's loss of habitat.


Prior to colonization, Aboriginal Americans occasionally used pigeons for meat. In the early 19th century, commercial hunters began netting and shooting the birds to sell in the city markets as food, as live targets for trap shooting and even as agricultural fertilizer.

Once pigeon meat became popular, commercial hunting started on a prodigious scale. The bird painter John James Audubon described the preparations for slaughter at a known pigeon-roosting site:

Few pigeons were then to be seen, 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 Russelsville, distant more than a hundred miles, had driven upwards 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.[19]

Pigeons were shipped by the boxcar-load to the Eastern cities. In New York City, in 1805, a pair of pigeons sold for two cents. Slaves and servants in 18th and 19th century America often saw no other meat. By the 1850s, it was noticed that the numbers of birds seemed to be decreasing, but still the slaughter continued, accelerating to an even greater level as more railroads and telegraphs were developed after the American Civil War.

One of the last large nestings of Passenger Pigeons was at Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. Here 50,000 birds were killed each day and the hunt continued for nearly five months. When the adult birds that survived the slaughter attempted second nestings at new sites, they were located by the professional hunters and killed before they had a chance to raise any young. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by the hunters knowing that it was the last flock of that size.[citation needed]

Stuffed Passenger Pigeon, Bird Gallery, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

Loss of habitat

Another significant reason for its extinction was deforestation. The birds traveled and reproduced in prodigious numbers, satiating predators before any substantial negative impact was made in the bird's population. As their numbers decreased along with their habitat, the birds could no longer rely on high population density for protection. Without this mechanism, many ecologists believe, the species could not survive.

Methods of killing

Front view of a live Passenger Pigeon

Alcohol-soaked grain intoxicated the birds and made them easier to kill. Smoky fires were set to nesting trees to drive them from their nests.[20]

Attempts at preservation

Conservationists were ineffective in stopping the slaughter. A bill was passed in the Michigan legislature making it illegal to net pigeons within two miles (3 km) of a nesting area, but the law was weakly enforced. By the mid 1890s, the Passenger Pigeon had almost completely disappeared. In 1897, a bill was introduced in the Michigan legislature asking for a ten-year closed season on Passenger Pigeons. This was a futile gesture. This was a highly gregarious species—the flock could initiate courtship and reproduction only when they were gathered in large numbers; it was realized only too late that smaller groups of Passenger Pigeons could not breed successfully, and the surviving numbers proved too few to re-establish the species.[3] Attempts at breeding among the captive population also failed for the same reasons.

Attempts to revive the species by breeding the surviving captive birds were not successful. The passenger pigeon was a colonial and gregarious bird practicing communal roosting and communal breeding and needed large numbers for optimum breeding conditions. It was impossible to reestablish the species with just a few captive birds, and the small captive flocks weakened and died. Since no accurate data were recorded, it is only possible to give estimates on the size and population of these nesting areas. Each site may have covered many thousands of acres and the birds were so congested in these areas that hundreds of nests could be counted in each tree. One large nesting area in Wisconsin was reported as covering 850 square miles (2,200 km2), and the number of birds nesting there was estimated to be around 136,000,000. Their technique of survival had been based on mass tactics.


The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon aroused public interest in the conservation movement and resulted in new laws and practices which have prevented many other species from becoming extinct.[citation needed]

Last wild survivors

Live Passenger Pigeon

The last fully authenticated record of a wild bird was near Sargents, Pike County, Ohio, on March 22, 1900,[3][21] although many unconfirmed sightings were reported in the first decade of the 20th century.[22][23][24] From 1909 to 1912, a reward was offered for a living specimen[25] — no specimens were found. However, unconfirmed sightings continued up to about 1930.[26]

Reports of Passenger Pigeon sightings kept coming in from Arkansas and Louisiana, in groups of tens and twenties, until the first decade of the 20th century.

The naturalist Charles Dury, of Cincinnati, Ohio, wrote in September 1910:

One foggy day in October 1884, at 5 a.m. I looked out of my bedroom window, and as I looked six wild pigeons flew down and perched on the dead branches of a tall poplar tree that stood about one hundred feet away. As I gazed at them in delight, feeling as though old friends had come back, they quickly darted away and disappeared in the fog, the last I ever saw of any of these birds in this vicinity.[27]


Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon

In 1857, a bill was brought forth to the Ohio State Legislature seeking protection for the Passenger Pigeon. A Select Committee of the Senate filed a report stating "The passenger pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from the myriads that are yearly produced."[28]

Fifty-seven years later, on September 1, 1914, Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati, Ohio. Her body was frozen into a block of ice and sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it was skinned and mounted. Currently, Martha (named after Martha Washington) is in the museum's archived collection, and not on display.[29][30] A memorial statue of Martha stands on the grounds of the Cincinnati Zoo.[31]

In culture

Chromolithograph illustration of a male
Passenger pigeon

The dramatic story of the Passenger Pigeon has taken a strong hold on popular imagination.

  • Aldo Leopold wrote about the loss of the pigeon in his seminal 1949 book A Sand County Almanac. The extract is called "On A Monument to the Pigeon".
  • The musician John Herald wrote a song about Martha, "Martha (Last of the Passenger Pigeons)".
  • The April 27, 1948 episode of the Fibber McGee and Molly radio program is titled "The Passenger Pigeon Trap", in which McGee claims to have seen a passenger pigeon (he insists that the bird is "stinct") and plans to trap it in order to sell it to the highest bidder. It turns out to be nothing more than a Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) sitting on top of a bus, which in McGee's mind makes the pigeon a passenger. Hence, "passenger pigeon". This episode has two inaccuracies regarding the last Passenger Pigeon. According to the character known as "Mr. Old Timer", the name of the last pigeon is incorrectly named Millie, not Martha, and died on July 4, 1914, not September 1, 1914.
  • In "The Man Trap", the premiere episode of Star Trek, Professor Crater likens the near-extinction of the inhabitants of planet M113 to the demise of the passenger pigeon.
  • An episode of The Bloodhound Gang, "The Case of the Dead Man's Pigeon", had the deceased Mr. Fowler allegedly leaving his fortune to preserve the Passenger Pigeon. But Vicki points out the will is a fake.
  • Stephen King makes a number of references to the Passenger Pigeon in the 2005 novel Cell. He uses the pigeon as an allegory to the new human hive mind that develops after the pulse hits the United States.
  • In the 1999 movie by Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Louie (John Tormey) identifies the bird owned by the titular character as a "carrier pigeon". He is corrected by an elderly mafioso who shouts, "Passenger pigeon! Passenger Pigeon! They've been extinct since 1914!" (The bird was in fact one of the homing pigeons Ghost Dog used to transport—"carry"—notes, which explains Louie's misidentification).
  • "Ectopistes migratorius" is the second chapter of the novel Havana Glam (2001) by Wu Ming 5. The reappearance of the pigeons in 1944 is the first signal of the arrival of time travelers from the 21st century USA.
Martha on display at the Cincinnati Zoo
  • A description of the passage of a flock of Passenger Pigeons, and the killing of large numbers of the birds, is given in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Pioneers. Although this was published in 1823, Natty Bumppo expresses outrage at people's "wastey ways" and concern about the possible future extinction of the bird.
  • The Australian poet Judith Wright wrote a poem called "Lament for Passenger Pigeons".
  • The alt-country duo The Handsome Family have a song called "Passenger Pigeons" featuring on their 2001 album Twilight
  • Large passenger pigeons flocks appear in two of Howard Waldrop's works: "...the World, as we Know't" and Them Bones.
  • Featured in the non-fiction book "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman
  • The character, Iggy, in the extinction musical story, Rockford's Rock Opera, is the world's last Passenger Pigeon.
  • In Diana Gabaldon's book The Fiery Cross, set in 18th century North Carolina, a huge migration of Passenger Pigeons are hunted by a tribe of American Indians as they pass by.
  • Harry Turtledove's alternate history novel How Few Remain includes a scene in which several characters eat passenger pigeon for dinner, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. In a later book in the series, passenger pigeons are also mentioned. In both cases, their decreased numbers are remarked upon.
  • In Steven Gould's novel Wildside the protagonists discover a portal to a parallel universe where no humans have ever been (at least not in the otherwise duplicate of North America). There have been no human caused extinctions and Pleistocene megafauna still roam the landscape. In order to finance its exploration and their planned gold prospecting in the Rocky Mountains, they anonymously ship a half-dozen female Passenger Pigeons each to four zoos and nature groups. They then offer to sell each facility one male Passenger Pigeon for $50,000. While there is some grumbling, the zoos all pay up and the young adults now have their operating capital.
  • On season 2, episode 71 (entitled "Birds") of Bob Dylan's satellite radio show Theme Time Radio Hour, Tom Waits calls in and apparently reads out loud from a text on Passenger Pigeons.
  • In The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa, Haruhi wanted a shrine that she intended to use for a filming location to be filled with white doves. The next day, the shrine is swarming with such doves. The day after that, after Kyon has upset her, the shrine is inhabited by a flock of Passenger Pigeons.
  • In Murray Leinster's Sidewise in Time where parts of alternative histories shift into our own reality a boy asks his grandfather what the millions of birds flying over them are and after shooting a few the grandfather discovers them to be the extinct Passenger Pigeon. The flock is said to be so large that its flight overhead lasts for hours. At the end of the short story a billion and a half of the birds remain in North America.
  • There is a very moving description of the feeding habits of a flock of migrating Passenger Pigeons, and also the hunting methods used against them in Chapter 3 of Carol Ryrie Brink's Caddie Woodlawn.

In art

John James Audubon illustrates the Passenger Pigeon in Birds of America, Second Edition (published, London 1827–38) as Plate 62 where a pair of birds (male and female) are shown. The image was engraved and colored by Robert Havell's, London workshops. The original watercolor by Audubon was purchased by the New York History Society where it remained since January 2009.

Place names

Across North America, place names refer to the former abundance of the Passenger Pigeon. Examples include:


An often-cited example of coextinction is that of the Passenger Pigeon and its parasitic louse Columbicola extinctus and Campanulotes defectus. Recently,[32][33][when?] C. extinctus was rediscovered on the Band-tailed Pigeon, and C. defectus was found to be a likely case of misidentification of the existing Campanulotes flavus.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^
  2. ^ "Three Hundred Dollars Reward; Will Be Paid for a Nesting Pair of Wild Pigeons, a Bird So Common in the United States Fifty Years Ago That Flocks in the Migratory Period Frequently Partially Obscured the Sun from View. How America Has Lost Birds of Rare Value and How Science Plans to Save Those That Are Left.". New York Times. January 16, 1910 Sunday. "Unless the State and Federal Governments come to the rescue of American game, plumed, and song birds, the not distant future will witness the practical extinction of some of the most beautiful and valuable species. Already the snowy heron, that once swarmed in immense droves over the United States, is gone, a victim of the greed and cruelty of milliners whose "creations" its beautiful nuptial feathers have gone to adorn." 
  3. ^ a b c d e Smithsonian Institution; it is believed that this species once constituted 25 to 40 per cent of the total bird population of the United States. It is estimated that there were 3 billion to 5 billion passenger pigeons at the time Europeans discovered America.
  4. ^ "Prior to 1492, this was a rare species." Mann, Charles C. (2005). "The Artificial Wilderness". 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 315–318. ISBN 1-4000-4006-X. 
  5. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Ectopistes migratorius. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 10 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^ Atkinson, George E. (1907). "The Pigeon in Manitoba". In Mershon, W. B.. The Passenger Pigeon. New York: The Outing Publishing Co.. p. 188. 
  11. ^ Save The Doves - Facts
  12. ^ The Biology and natural history of the Mourning Dove
  13. ^ The Mourning Dove in Missouri
  14. ^ Cloning Extinct Species, Part II
  15. ^ Long-Extinct Passenger Pigeon Finds a Place in the Family Tree — Science News
  16. ^ Kevin P. Johnson, Dale H. Clayton, John P. Dumbacher, Robert C. Fleischer. The flight of the Passenger Pigeon: Phylogenetics and biogeographic history of an extinct species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 2010; 57 (1): 455 DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2010.05.010
  17. ^ "The Passenger Pigeon", Encyclopedia Smithsonian, Prepared by the Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History in cooperation with the Public Inquiry Mail Service, Smithsonian Institution
  18. ^ Passenger Pigeon, The Extinction Website
  19. ^ "On The Passenger Pigeon", Birds of America, John James Audubon
  20. ^ Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  21. ^ The date of March 24 was given in the report by Henniger, but there are many discrepancies with the actual circumstances, meaning he was writing from hearsay. A curator's note that apparently derives from an old specimen label has March 22.
  22. ^ Passenger Pigeons in Alabama
  23. ^ Life of birds – Was Martha the last “Pigean de passage”?
  24. ^ A History Of The Passenger Pigeon In Missouri
  25. ^ The New York Times; April 4, 1910, Monday; Reward for Wild Pigeons. Ornithologists Offer $3,000 for the Discovery of Their Nests.
  26. ^ Passenger Pigeon
  27. ^ Dury, Charles (September 1910). "The Passenger Pigeon". Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 21: 52–56. 
  28. ^ Hornaday, W.T. 1913: Our Vanishing Wild Life. Its Extermination and Preservation
  29. ^ "Encyclopedia Smithsonian". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  30. ^ "Martha at the Smithsonian". Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  31. ^ Passenger Pigeon Memorial Hut, Cincinnati, Ohio
  32. ^ Clayton, D. H., and R. D. Price. 1999. Taxonomy of New World Columbicola (Phthiraptera: Philopteridae) from the Columbiformes (Aves), with descriptions of five new species. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 92:675–685.
  33. ^ Price, R.D., D. H. Clayton, R. J. Adams, J. (2000) Pigeon lice down under: Taxonomy of Australian Campanulotes (Phthiraptera: Philopteridae), with a description of C. durdeni n.sp. Parasitol. 86(5), p 948-950. American Society of Parasitologists. Online pdf

Further reading

  • Weidensaul, Scott (1994). Mountains of the Heart: A Natural History of the Appalachians. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing. ISBN 1-55591-143-9.
  • Eckert, Allan W. (1965). The Silent Sky: The Incredible Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. Lincoln NE: ISBN 0-595-08963-1.
  • French, John C. (1919), The Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania Altoona, Pa.: Altoona Tribune Co.
  • Mershon, W. B., ed. (1907) Wikisource-logo.svg The Passenger Pigeon New York: Outing Press
  • Price, Jennifer (2000). Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02486-6.
  • Schorger, A.W. (1955). The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. Reprinted in paperback, 2004, by Blackburn Press. ISBN 1-930665-96-2.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • passenger pigeon — (Zo[ o]l.), A once common wild pigeon of North America ({Ectopistes migratorius}), now extinct. It was so called on account of its extensive migrations. Note: The passenger pigeon presents a striking example of how dramatic a negative influence… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • passenger pigeon — ☆ passenger pigeon n. a variety of North American pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) with a narrow tail longer than its wings: formerly abundant, but extinct since 1914 …   English World dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — an extinct pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, once found in great numbers in North America, noted for its sustained migratory flights. [1795 1805, Amer.] * * * Extinct species (Ectopistes migratorius) of pigeon (subfamily Columbinae, family… …   Universalium

  • passenger-pigeon — passˈenger pigeon noun An extinct N American pigeon that flew in vast numbers in search of food • • • Main Entry: ↑passenger …   Useful english dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — noun gregarious North American migratory pigeon now extinct • Syn: ↑Ectopistes migratorius • Hypernyms: ↑pigeon • Member Holonyms: ↑Ectopistes, ↑genus Ectopistes …   Useful english dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — noun Date: 1802 an extinct but formerly abundant North American migratory pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — extinct species of migratory pigeon that once inhabited all areas of North America …   English contemporary dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — noun a migratory long tailed North American pigeon, hunted to extinction by 1914. [Ectopistes migratorius.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • passenger pigeon — pas′senger pi geon n. orn a North American pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, that once nested in great numbers in hardwood forests: extinct since 1914 • Etymology: 1795–1805, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • passenger pigeon — /ˈpæsəndʒə pɪdʒən/ (say pasuhnjuh pijuhn) noun a species of wild pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, once the most common bird in North America but reduced to extinction in the 19th century. {French passager to pass by (with reference to its… …   Australian English dictionary