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)

Passenger pigeons did not nest in Maryland in large colonies but they evidently did nest every year in Garrett County in the northwest.  Elliott Coues once shot a bird in the District of Columbia that was so young he believed that it nested nearby. Large flocks would fly over in spring and fall and there was at least one tract near Oakland used by many thousands of roosting birds for over ten years.

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last specimens seem to be the ones shot in September 1888 near Bradshaw and another the following year in Dulaney's Valley. Sightings continued as late as 1893.

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
It is likely that any place called “pigeon” within the former range of the passenger pigeon is named for that species. But the only two places in Maryland with pigeon as part of the name may be exceptions. Research conducted by a librarian in Anne Arundal County determined that Pigeon House Corner referred to rock pigeons:

Pigeon House Corner (populated place), Anne Arundel County

Pigeonhouse Creek (bay), Somerset County

Maryland Highlights:

In Winter there is great plenty of Swannes, Cranes, Geese, Herons, Ducke, Teale, Widgeon, Brants, and Pidgeons, with other sorts, whereof there are none in England. Clayton Colman Hall, Narratives of Early Maryland: 1633-1684, 1910.

A newspaper told of a roost on the property of William Schley near Oakland in the fall of 1872. “So great was the number of birds that they piled upon each other in places from one to two feet in depth..” The mass of birds was “almost beyond belief” and the countless wings reminded listeners of “the roar of a waterfall,” the sound of which carried two miles. Such a bounty of pigeons brought the men and boys with their “guns, clubs, and bags” who captured thousands every night. Many of the dead birds were merely left to rot on the ground.

On January 1, 1876, Edward Grant saw the last big flight of passenger pigeons he would ever see: "As I watched the flock in amazement, the birds continued to come, in a dense band which as I recall was about 75 to 100 feet wide. The flock stretched continuously for something between one-eithth and one-quarter of a mile, and contained thousands and thousands of birds. They flew rapidly westward and soon disappeared over Phoenix Hill in Garrett County. During the remaining two miles to Barton I watched for additional floks . . but no others appeared."

The last passenger pigeon, Martha, who died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914 is housed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

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

Washington DC: *Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural 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 Maryland

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 Maryland. [Schorger-MD.pdf]

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

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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