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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Ectopistes migratorius

Common Name:
Passenger Pigeon

Family:
Columbidae

Localities:
Chamberlain, South Dakota   September 16, 1804

North America's most common bird

As with the Carolina parakeet, Lewis and Clark make only mundane reference to this then common bird.  To say "common bird" is hardly fathomable when compared to today's bird populations.  James Audubon, after witnessing enormous flocks of passenger pigeon crowd the skies for three days, estimated their numbers at more than one billion.  When Europeans settled North America, passenger pigeons were the most common bird on the continent, and they may have accounted for 25% of the total bird population for North America, a staggering number.  These numbers make understanding the human-caused extinction of passenger pigeons that much harder.  Before the century of Lewis and Clark was over, every living passenger pigeon had been extirpated.



Journal Entries:

Near present day Chamberlain, South Dakota, Lewis has identified several trees, including a small species of oak and its acorns.
Capt....  more>>

References Linné, Carl von, Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, Cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis, ed. 10, 2 vols, Holmiae: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii, 1758

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Passenger pigeon from the NMNH collections.

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Passenger pigeon from the NMNH collections.

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Passenger pigeon showing iridescent neck feathers, from the NMNH collections.

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Dove-like tail of the passenger pigeon, from the NMNH collections.

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Passenger pigeon illustrated by Alexander Wilson.


 
 
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