Project Passenger Pigeon

Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future

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Passenger Pigeons in Your State, Province or Territory


(Compiled by Joel Greenberg and Garrie Landry)

Passenger pigeons occurred throughout the year and in all parts of the state. They were often "exceedingly abundant", although depending on the time and place they might be only "uncommon." Kentucky was at the southern edge of the breeding range, although the accounts by the likes of Wilson, Audubon, and Revoil demonstrate that the state sometimes hosted nestings of vast size. 

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:

J.G. Taylor shot one near Owensboro on July 27, 1898 that was given to the Smithsonian Institution. Another bird was allegedly taken near Winchester on November 20, 1898 but was unfortunately eaten, leaving not even a feather as corroboration.

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:

There are at least 44 places in Kentucky with pigeon in the name:

Pigeon Creek (stream) in Anderson County, Edmonson County

Pigeon Roost Creek (stream) in Boyd County

Pigeonroost Hollow (valley) in Breathitt County and Pike County

Pigeonroost (populated place) in Clay County

Pigeon Roost School (school) in Clay County, Jackson County, and
Martin County

Pigeon Roost Branch (stream) two in Clay County, Jackson County, Knox County, McCreary County, and Martin County

Pigeon Branch (stream) in Clay County, Harrison County, Martin County, and Washington County

Pigeonroost Creek (stream) in Crittendon County

Pigeon Hollow (valley) in Edmonson County

Pigeonroost Fork (stream) in Floyd County and Martin County

Pigeonroost Branch (stream) in Floyd County, Johnson County, Lawrence County, Leslie County, two in Perry County, and two in Pike County

Pigeon Roost Hollow (valley) in Greenup County, Leslie County, Lewis County, and Menifee County.

Pigeon Roost Creek (stream) in Jackson County

Pigeonroost School (school) in Johnson County

Pigeon School (school) in Johnson County

Pigeon Creek (stream) in Johnson County and Ohio County

Pigeon Fork (stream) in Knox County and Letcher County

Pigeon (populated place) in Pike County

Pigeon Fork Church (church) in Shelby County

Kentucky Highlights:

Sixty-seven passenger pigeon bones have been found at Wickliffe Mounds, once a ceremonial and administrative center situated on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River near its confluence with the Mississippi River in Ballard County. Hundreds of people once lived here. The site is part of the Kentucky State Park system and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Not far from Shelbyville . . . , about five years ago, there was  one of these breeding places, which stretched through the woods in a nearly north and south direction, and was several miles in breadth, and was said to be upwards of forty miles in extent! In this tract almost every tree was furnished with nests, wherever the branches could accommodate them .  .  . [N]umerous parties of the inhabitants, from all parts of the adjacent country, came with wagons, axes, beds, cooking utensils. . Several of them informed me that the noise in the waood was so great as to terrify their horses and that it was difficult for one person to hear another speak.” Alexander Wilson (1810) 

Many authors throughout passenger pigeon range recorded instances when the sky was darkened by the enormous flocks for hours at a time. John James Audubon recounts a trip he made from Henderson to Louisville in the fall of 1813. During the entire day that he traveled and the two days that followed, the sun was eclipsed by flights of passenger pigeons.

“During the three days of my sojourn at Hartford, the population of the country around never put the weapons away. All, men and children, had a double-barreled gun or a carbine in the hands, and, in ambush along a wood, behind a rock, on the edge of the river, wherever there was a chance for them not be seen, they waited for the favorable moment to send a discharge into the midst of a flock, and thus to kill a prodigious number of pigeons." Benedict Henry Revoil in 1847, The Pigeons (1860)

The descriptions by Wilson, first American ornithologist, and Audubon, best known American ornithologist, are overwhelmingly the most widely reprinted and read of all accounts on the species. And both are mostly descriptions of what the two men saw in Kentucky within a few years of each other. Revoil is the first to publish an opinion that unless the killing of the birds stopped, they would become extinct before a century. Those words were published in 1860, which means it took about a half a century for his prediction came true.

Kentucky Locations known to have Passenger Pigeon Skins, Mounts, and or Skeletons:

Bernheim: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Henderson: *John James Audubon State Park and Museum

Lexington: *Transylvania University

Louisville: *Louisville Science Center

Owensboro: *Owensboro Museum of Science and History

* If an asterisk appears, at least one passenger pigeon is known to be on display; this list is mainly based on Hahn's Where is That Vanished Bird (1963). Please let us know of any changes including additional locations and/or birds on display, name changes of institution, if birds are no longer present, etc.

Read Fascinating Historical Accounts of the Passenger Pigeon in Kentucky

Wisconsin’s A.W. [Bill] Schorger (1884-1972) spent many years researching the history of the Passenger Pigeon, and he summarized his findings in his 1955 book, The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. At the time of its publication, the book was the most comprehensive account of the species. Schorger did an excellent job summarizing the nearly 10,000 historical records he discovered in libraries and historical societies around the country, but his original research notes contain many additional details.
For the 2014 centennial, Professor Stanley Temple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has made all Schorger’s handwritten research notes available in digital form. This link will take you to a table that provides details of all the historical records Bill Schorger discovered for Kentucky. [Schorger-KY.pdf]

Read Historical Accounts from Shorger's Original Field Notes about the Passenger Pigeon in Kentucky

These sources are newly available on the Passenger Pigeon site (as of January 25, 2014). The links below give access to often-firsthand, eyewitness accounts of pigeons, the table includes a cross reference to the exact page in Schorger’s notes where you can read the full text of the account and find a citation of the original source document. All these historical documents are in PDF format in sizes ranging from 24mb - 60mb. These documents will open in their own window. Use the links below to find the page containing the account you’re interested in exploring further:
Schorger pages 1-329
Schorger pages 330-632
Schorger pages 633-959
Schorger pages 960-1242
Schorger pages 1243-1585
Schorger pages 1586-1890
Schorger pages 1891-2232
Schorger pages 2233-2556


Your text contributions on passenger pigeons in the U.S. or Canada are welcome. Email your text notes to us. Include: first and last name, and the State or Province you reference in the Subject Line.

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