Project Passenger Pigeon

Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future


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How Everyone Can Get Involved

Project Passenger Pigeon is about reaching as many people as possible in our efforts to tell the compelling story of the passenger pigeon and to present current issues related to extinction, the relationship of people to nature, and how we can proceed in a more sustainable way.

To help bring that about, the Project has created, and is in the process of creating, a wide range of scientifically and historically accurate media resources that will make it easy for organizations to participate in this effort. (You may also check out Project Idea Center on this site)

Available from the Website

I. Downloadable Museum Panels: The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History has developed a 9-panel exhibit on the passenger pigeon and extinction entitled A Shadow Over the Earth. There are two blank panels so the exhibit can encompass local cases and/or materials. Available in English and French. They can be downloaded from the web site for printing by the interested venue. Link: Build Your Own Exhibit: Downloadable Panels

II. PowerPoint Presentation on the Four Elements of Project Passenger Pigeon: Each segment of the presentation was created by a different expert: 1) story of the bird by Garrie Landry (University of Louisiana, Lafayette); 2) extinction by Stan Temple (University of Wisconsin, Madison); 3) connections between people and nature by Matthew Magoc (Audubon Center at Riverlands, West Alton, MO), and 4) sustainable relations with other species by Bill Tweit (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia). This Power Point Presentation is meant as a resource to allow teachers and others to present the portions they are interested in. (P3 is not responsible for the accuracy of additions made by subsequent users.)
* Note that the file size is 45MB and can take up to 5 minutes to download. The file name is p3_powerpoint.pptx. *

III. Origami Pigeon Parade:"Flight of the Passenger Pigeon"

Students can make origami passenger pigeons and then walk in a parade holding up their birds. Link: How to Make an Origami Flapping Bird
For more ideas, check out Project Idea Center under the Get Involved menu option above.

IV. Speakers Bureau:

Speakers are prepared to present on topics related to Project Passenger Pigeon themes. We have assembled 17 experts in 13 states. Link: Speakers Bureau

V. Children's Play:

This work that tells the passenger pigeon story is being written by the Indiana State Museum Tentatively entitled "A Pigeon's Tale", it should be ready by late 2013. The link will be published at that time.

VI. Adult Play:

"The Savage Passengers" written by Chicago playwright, Bret Angelos, is a four character play. It is based on the true story of actor Junius Brutus Booth wanting to hold a funeral for a bushel of passenger pigeons to protest their slaughter in Louisville in 1834. A portion of the play was performed this summer as part of the City Lit Theater Art of Adaptation Festival in Chicago (summer 2013). Contact Bret at

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VII. Performance and Installation Art:

P3 has assembled a unique group of talented performance artists and installation specialists who can educate, stimulate, entertain and connect an audience to the natural world we live in. For Presentation & Installation Art Resources, click here.

VIII. Chorus on Flight of the Passenger Pigeons:

Anthony Philip Heinrich, America's first symphony composer, wrote a nine movement symphony devoted to the passenger pigeon which includes a choral portion that has been translated. The symphony requires a large orchestra but the chorus can be much more easily performed. For more information on both the orchestral and choral portions, check out the link Project Idea Center and contact us at

IX. Classroom Materials:

Lesson materials tailored for K through 12 students will be available by fall 2014 to aid teachers who wish to integrate Project elements into appropriate lesson plans. Currently we are offering these lesson plans:

A: 6th Grade Science: "Passenger Pigeons: Nomads Lost" (Provider: American Association for the Advancement of Science). In this lesson, students explore the concept and implications of extinction using the example of the Passenger Pigeon, once an extremely abundant species that was completely eliminated by humans. Students also investigate how the technologies that were seemingly unrelated to the loss of the bird were actually central to its extinction. Link

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B: Grades 3-12: "Where Have All the Predators Gone?" (Provider: Brian "Fox" Ellis, Fox Tails International).
Time estimate: Two 50-minute periods

Science skills: Communication; Prediction; Inference; Identify Variables; Formulate Hypotheses: Re-order, Analyze, and Draw Conclusions; Design Investigations

Introduction: Begin with a discussion of the role of predators in the food web and how plants and animals are adversely affected by the elimination of any species. Discuss extinction and the effect of loss of predators on an ecosystem or food web. Begin by discussing how changes in habitat can cause large predators to become extinct. What happens then? Ask leading questions to help students deduce that without predators, the population of the prey expands until the ecosystem's food web cannot sustain it. Then the prey starves, and its population crashes. What happens then?

Activity: As a class brainstorms a list of predators that currently live or once lived in your area. Ask students to set aside extinct animals for the duration of this activity. You may at this point explain the difference between extinction and extirpated. Extinction means all of the animals of that type are dead. Extirpated means an animal has been eliminated from a region because of the elimination of their habitat. These animals are not extinct, because they still live in other areas. With these concepts in mind, split the list into two categories: predators that still live in your region and those that are alive elsewhere but no longer live in your area, they are extirpated. Add more predators to each list as students mention them.

Ask students to choose one predator from either list and research its needs; the reasons it became extirpated or factors that threaten it with extirpation; food sources; habitat; range; reproduction rate; and current population. Obviously, this requires more in-depth research than some of the other projects in this book. Fortunately, many of these large animals are the subjects of extensive research; that makes digging up facts about them easier than it may at first appear. Consult with your school librarian to find sources of information. Clearly, the internet has made this kind of research so much easier. While researching this book and another book I wrote on Prairie Wildlife I was able to trade e-mail with wildlife biologists, read current research papers on-line, view range maps and find live video-camera feeds from nests boxes. Challenge students to design a theoretical study that answers one of two questions: If the predator still lives in your region, what can be done to protect and promote its habitat to ensure a thriving population? If the predator is extirpated, what would be required to reintroduce the species to the area in viable numbers? Obviously, this is a theoretical study, because without millions of dollars and years of hard work, this kind of project would be next to impossible.

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X. National Biodiversity Teach-in

This is a project created by the students and teachers of the Environmental Science classes at Elgin High School [IL] to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity. In their words: "We became passionate about biodiversity through the story of Martha, the last known living Passenger Pigeon who died on September 1st, 1914. In honor of Martha, we are hosting a National Biodiversity Teach In to mark the 100th anniversary of Martha’s death. We are hosting a series of webinars with professionals from all over the country on September 22 through 26, 2014."
For more information see

XI. Martha’s Flock:

Feral Theatre and ONCA invite you to become part of Martha’s Flock in a collective effort to affirm and deepen our memory of the passenger pigeon. The task for each participant is to make a tribute to Martha/ the passenger pigeon in movement, film it and upload it to YouTube. Whilst the tributes are from seemingly isolated individuals, we will collate them to make a virtual flock of tributes The flock will then be featured on Feral and ONCA’s websutes, and we will hold a screening event at the ONCA Gallery in Brighton later this year.
For more information see

Traveling Exhibitions, Book and Documentary Film

     I. Traveling Exhibits:

A.  Michigan State University Museum  is preparing a 1,000 square foot traveling exhibit dealing with the passenger pigeon and broader issues of extinction. Can be contacted at

B. Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum  (Wausau, WI) will host an exhibit on passenger pigeons and other extinct birds beginning in September 2014. Elements of the exhibit can be lent to other institutions. The museum can be reached at 715-845-7010 or

     II. Book: The first book in over 50 years on the passenger pigeon, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction by Joel Greenberg (Bloomsbury USA, expected January 2014) Link

     III. Documentary Film: The documentary, From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, by David Mrazek and Joel Greenberg will be available in early spring of 2014. There are also plans to make abridged versions for use in the classroom. Link

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