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 Bill Whan and Joel Greenberg)

West Virginia has provided bountiful habitat for the forest-dwelling Passenger Pigeon, but early ornithologists like Audubon and Wilson passed it by on their voyages elsewhere via the Ohio River, noting only that pigeons were abundant in the region. Hall calls it very abundant as a former migrant and summer resident in the state, with most reports coming from the Western Hills Region (closest to the main breeding range to the northwest of the state), and a breeding range in the Ohio and Little Kanawha River drainages. Large flocks were last seen in the fall of 1883, feeding on beechnuts, acorns, and chestnuts.

Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last great flights were witnessed in the 1870s, and its presence in summer ended with a small nesting of several hundred birds in 1889.  Last record is of bird shot in 1895 in Putnam County.

Brooks, M. A check-list of West Virginia Birds. Bulletin 16, W. Va. Exp. Sta, Morgantown.

Hall, G. 1983. West Virginia Birds. Carnegie Museum of Natural History Special Publication No. 7. Pittsburgh.

Handley, C. 1976. Birds of the Great Kanawha Valley (1770-1975). McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W. Va.

Places Likely Named for the Passenger Pigeon:

Pigeonroost Fork (stream) in Boone County, 2 in Braxton County, Kanawha County, Lincoln County, Mingo County

Pigeonroost Hollow (valley) in Boone County and Kanawha County

Big Pigeonroost in Mingo County

Pigeon Run (stream) in Braxton County, Gilmer County, Pocahontas County, and Roane County

Little Pigeon Run in Roane County

Pigeonroost (summit) in Grant County

Pigeon Roost Lookout Tower in Grant County

Pigeon (populated place) in Roane County

Pigeonroost Run (stream) in Jackson County, Upshur County, Wirt County, and Wood County

Pigeon Branch (stream) 2 in Lincoln County, 3 in Logan County, and McDowell County

Pigeonroost Creek (stream) in Lincoln County and Mingo County

Pigeon Creek in Wyoming County, Mingo County, and Mercer County

Pigeon Creek School (historical school) in Mercer County

Pigeon Hollow (valley) in Greenbrier County

Pigeon Creek Spring (spring) in Mercer County

Pigeon Knob (summit) in Preston County

Pigeon Roost Run in Roane County

Pigeon Post Office (historical) in Roane County

Pigeon (populated place) in Roane County

Pigeonroost Ridge (ridge) in Roane County

Pigeonroost Run School (historical school) in Wood County

West Virginia Highlights:
Fairchance Mound and Village in Marshall County is a Middle Woodland site dating back roughly 1,500 years. The people who inhabited the site lived on a variety of plants and animals, including passenger pigeons, as their remains have been found here. For archeologists, though, the complex is probably of greatest interest for featuring a tomb with a crypt lined with a layer of stone.

One of the most amazing sights of those days [the decades after the Civil War] was the great flock of passenger pigeon to be seen in the early fall days. . . The writer vividly recalls witnessing the flight of pigeons near Pool in the Wilderness District in the autumn of 1876. On several days about an hour before sunset the sky was completely covered by a vast multitude of the pigeons pouring into the roost in the Wilderness, with a roar of wings like a heavy windstorm. . . .The land where this roost was located was enriched by the droppings of the birds.” William Griffee Brown, History of Nicholas County, West Virginia (1954) (courtesy of Mary Hufford)

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

Wheeling: 1) *Oglebay Institute, Schrader Nature Center; 2) Ohio Valley General Hospital

* 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 West Virginia

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 West Virginia. [Schorger-WV.pdf]

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

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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