Project Passenger Pigeon

Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future

Specimen in North Dakota State Historical Society Collection shortly after remounting (top) and in present condition (bottom).



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Passenger Pigeons in Your State, Province or Territory


(Compiled by Ben Novak and edited by Joel Greenberg)

North Dakota was sparsely populated by Euro Americans in historic times, with a poor infrastructure for recording and communicating sightings and information of any kind. Much of the Native American accounts were never recorded for posterity. Little paleontology or archaeological surveying is conducted in North Dakota, so little can be known for certain if the bird was a frequent migratory bird of the region or not. That said, a number of records are known. The birds may have bred in 1873 near Berthold (Ward County), along the Pembina River, and in the Turtle Mountains where one was shot in July. Other records exist in various parts of the state including Dunn County, Larimore, and Barton.

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:

Pigeon Point (cliff) in Ransom County

Pigeon School in Rolette County

North Dakota Highlights:

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site: Located on the Missouri River near the Montana state line, the post was the most important trading venue on the upper Missouri from 1829 until 1867.  Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibwe, Blackfoot, and Hidatsa and other nations traded buffalo robes and furs for goods such as beads, clay pipes, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, cloth, and alcohol. It is one of the oldest National Historic Landmarks, having received the designation in 1961.Bones of up to three passenger pigeons have been found here.

Scattered Village Site: In June 1998, the remains of Scattered Village were unexpectedly encountered in a federally supported street renovation project on First Street NE in the City of Mandan, North Dakota. The area had once been inhabited by historic Mandan or Hidatsa people. This discovery led to an emergency salvage (data recovery) program involving fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and technical reporting funded jointly by the City of Mandan and federal dollars through the North Dakota Department of Transportation. A total of 1,786 bird bones were identified to ten orders and a minimum of 15 families, most of which were perching birds like crows, finches, thrushes, sparrows, and warblers. The Galliformes (fowl-like birds, including grouse) contribute an additional 25.5% (n=456); the Falconiformes (vultures, hawks, eagles, etc.; n=121) 6.8%; and the Anseriformes (waterfowl; n=81) 4.5%. Six additional specimens are of passenger pigeons; one of these is partially digested and a second piece shows evidence of rodent gnawing.

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

Bismarck: *State Historical Society of North Dakota

* 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 North Dakota

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 North Dakota. [Schorger-ND.pdf]

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

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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