Project Passenger Pigeon

Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future

fortFort Missisauga, Ontario, the site where Major King saw his remarkable flight of passenger pigeons.

Passenger Pigeon display at the Gray Roots Museum and Archive in Owen Sound.

View the full list of P3 Participating Organizations
by State, Province, Territory or City.

There are now organizations
this State, Province or Territory who are displaying the symbol

P3Symbol that indicates they are offering rewarding activities for visitors and volunteers interested in pursuing the themes of Project Passenger Pigeon. You can locate them, with a link to their websites, plus the full list of all participating organizations: here.



Passenger Pigeons in Your State, Province or Territory


(Compiled by Robert Russell and edited Joel Greenberg)

Formerly an abundant migrant and breeder. “Bred in great numbers in southern parts; also west to northern Lake of the Woods and north to Moose Factory (W. E. Godfrey, 1986, The Birds of Canada, rev. ed.).” Known to have nested in 45 of the 55 counties of the province including those north of where masting trees existed. The preferred habitat for breeding in the Niagara region was beech, oak, and tamarack trees and huckleberry marsh. M. H. Mitchell (1935, The Passenger Pigeon in Ontario) noted there were three main routes for pigeons passing into Ontario from the south: one between Lakes Erie and Huron; one by the Niagara Peninsula; and one around the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last known nesting colony in Ontario was near Kingston in 1898, a small colony of perhaps no more than 20 birds and 12 nests. The eventual fate of the colony was unknown (Mitchell). Two specimens were each taken- at separate times and places- in the fall of 1890 at Toronto. They were both immature females. The last known specimen from the province seems to be the young male taken by Ottomar Reinecke at Sherkston in the Niagara Frontier, mid-September 1891 (J. E. Black and K. J. Roy, 2010 Niagara Birds).

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
Pigeon River (flows from Mountain Lake to Lake Superior and forms part of boundary between MN and ON)

Pigeon River Provincial Park

Pigeon Bay near Gravenhurst and another near Kingston.

Little Pigeon Bay, Little Pigeon Bay Road, and Little Pigeon Bay Subdivision about 50 km. from Thunder Bay.

Pigeon Falls near MN border.

Pigeon Island near Kingston.

Mimico is a former town and now neighborhood in Toronto that means “where pigeons gather” in the Mississauga language.

Ontario Highlights:
Passenger pigeon bones, often in large numbers, have been found at most archeological sites in southern Ontario (Curry, 2006, Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas). Frame (1987, Faunal Analysis of the Crawford Lake site, unpublished MS noted in Curry 2006) noted that the high proportion of bones of juvenile pigeons at the Crawford Lake site, Halton (Late Woodland, 1340-1400 AD) indicated netting during migration.

An immense rookery was noted in 1835 that extended both sides of the River Speed from Guelph to Rockwood; within its bounds trees were broken down by the weight of the pigeons and at the proper time, wagon loads of the young birds could be easily obtained (Curry 2006).

“They were annually looked for in April. The first who observed them circulated the news, ‘The pigeons are flying,’ and early in the morning a regular fusillade would be heard all along the edges of the Mountain. These annual migrations seemed to attain their maximum in 1854, ‘the year of the cholera.’ During that season from April until June flocks passed to the west in every hour. Vast numbers were killed, until, fortunately for the birds, a rumour got abroad that eating too many pigeons caused the cholera. After that year the flocks rapidly decreased in number until 1885, when the annual migrations have entirely ceased.” Thomas McIwraith

Curry noted a fishing trip in 1858 or 1859 where the writer C.J.S. Bethune observed a stubble field about 10 acres in size adjacent to an immense swamp that was “literally blue with pigeons, so that one could hardly see the ground in any place….”

William King, a soldier at Fort Mississauga in Niagara-on-the-Lake, reported having seen in May 1860 a “grand migration of the Passenger Pigeon” which he estimated to number in the millions in a flock that was a mile wide and 300 miles long and that took 14 hours to pass overhead (W.R. King 1866 The sportsman and naturalist in Canada: Or notes on the natural history of the game, game birds and fish of that country).

Ontario locations known to have passenger pigeon skins, mounts, and/or skeletons:
Arva: Medway High School

Barrie: Barrie High School

Chatham: Chatham-Kent Museum

Collingwood: Huron Institute

Goderich: Huron Pioneer Museum

Guelph: University of Guelph

Hamilton: Dundurn Castle Museum

Ingersoll: *Oxford County Museum School

Kingston: Queen’s University

Leamington: *Point Pelee National Park

London: University of Western Ontario

Milton: *Halton Region Museum

Morpeth: *Rondeau Provincial Park

Ottawa:*Canadian Museum of Nature

Owen Sound: *Grey Roots Museum and Archives

Paris: Paris Public Library

St. Mary’s: St. Mary’s District Museum

Toronto:*Royal Ontario Museum

Waterloo: University of Waterloo

* 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 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 Ontario

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 Ontario. [Schorger-ON.pdf]
These links will take you to a table that provides details of all the historical records Bill Schorger recorded for Canada [Schorger-Canada.pdf] and France. [Schorger-France.pdf]

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

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.

(Return to Home Page Map of Project Passenger Pigeon)