Project Passenger Pigeon

Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future

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by State, Province, Territory or City.

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Passenger Pigeons in Your State, Province or Territory


(Compiled by Ben Novak and Joel Greenberg)

The state is on the periphery of passenger pigeon range. The birds migrated through the eastern portion and were perhaps abundant along the Missouri River. Most of the western reports are from the early 1800s and not well documented. Lewis and Clark reported large numbers breeding near Missoula: given the familiarity that they had with passenger pigeons and that band-tailed pigeons are absent, Schorger was inclined to believe the report. In the same area 50 years later, the species was seen feeding on service berries at or near Hell Gate River. On August 8, 1856 a male was secured above mouth of Yellowstone River.

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last specimen known from the state was a young bird shot at Waterton on August 23, 1874.

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
All three places that have pigeon in the name are near Butte, in the western part of Montana and may, therefore, not refer to passenger pigeons.

Pigeon Creek Campground (locale) in Silver Bow County

Pigeon Creek Ridge (ridge) in Silver Bow County

Pigeon Creek (stream) in Silver Bow County

Montana Highlights:

I was President of a Nature Study Club and decided to
do the main report that day on Passenger Pigeons. I asked the elderly ladies if they had ever seen one of these extinct birds...Well, most of them got highly insulted at my thinking they were that old, but one little old meek lady held up her hand and told us she saw a flock of them on the Montana Ranch she grew up on. As she told the story, they were in the midst of a terrible snowstorm and a flock of these Passenger Pigeons flew into the corral and started pecking at the bits of grain...Eva's Daddy, a very wise and kind man, knew these birds were getting scarce, and he also knew this flock would never survive the terrible blizzard on their own. With Eva helping him, he shooed the tired birds into a large stall in the barn and closed them in...He kept food and water for them all that winter long, and turned them out to continue their lonely journey only after Spring had come to the Great Falls area...They never saw another one of these birds that once numbered in the millions...
Jeannie Travis on Black-Sheep Chat blog (based on old recollection of old recollection)

Montana Locations Known to Have Passenger Pigeon Skins, Mounts, and or Skeletons:
None are known to me. Joel Greenberg

Read Fascinating Historical Accounts of the Passenger Pigeon in Montana

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 Montana. [Schorger-MT.pdf]

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

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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