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 Robert Russell)

Early accounts make it clear that the bird was present, at least sporadically, through much of the province, with nesting noted as far north as Cumberland House. E.M. Callin (1979?, Birds of the Qu’Appelle) speculates that the species might have nested as far west as one of its favorite foods, the bur oak—which extends into Saskatchewan along the Qu’Appelle River valley as far west as north of Whitewood. An arrival date of May 10 is given for Fort Qu’Appelle.

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last reports date to the early 1880s.

Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
No such places are known.

Saskatchewan Highlights:
The first report of Passenger Pigeon from within the current borders of Saskatchewan was made by Henry Kelsey in 1691 who was the first European to visit the Canadian prairies (H.T. Epp, Three Hundred Prairie Years, 1993).

In late July, 1858 Dickinson referred to “pigeons” among innumerable birds along the eastern half of the Valley (H.Y. Hind, Narrative of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan exploring expedition of 1858, vol. 1).

“McKay, however, discovered a few pigeons in a little grove, and shot two or three of them. We halted for dinner not far from Qu’Appelle Fort.” (Journal of the Earl of Southesk, 1875).

Daniel W. Harmon listed it when he resided during the winter of 1880-1881 at the North West Company trading post of Alexandria on the Assiniboine, 10 miles north and 2 miles east of the present site of Canora (Saskatchewan) (C.S. Houston and W. Anaka, Birds of Yorkton-Duck Mountain, 2003)

C.W.J. McLean last encountered large flocks of them passing northwesterly from the Whitesand River near Fort Pelly about the middle of May 1877. (Houston and Anaka)

In 1881 John Macoun saw some in early September on the Swan River northwest of Livingstone and shot “large numbers for the pot” on the upper Assiniboine near present-day Kamsack. While firing at the pigeons in a tree, Macoun’s nephew tumbled out of his boat into the river from the recoil of the gun. The low flats along the river were covered with Red Ozier Dogwood; the pigeons were feeding on the ripe berries (Houston, 1972, The Passenger Pigeon in Saskatchewan, The Blue Jay 30, 77-83).

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

Regina: *Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

Saskatoon: *Museum of Natural Sciences,
University of Saskatoon.

* 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 Saskatchewan

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 Saskatchewan. [Schorger-SK.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 Saskatchewan

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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