Breeding around the Great Lakes, migrating in enormous flocks, once the most abundant bird in North America, the passenger pigeon male was mainly gray with lighter underparts, iridescent bronze neck feathers, and black spots on its wings. The bird’s extremely social lifestyle made it more vulnerable to widespread deforestation and hunting on a massive scale. * Symbol of the threat of extinction. Symbol of extinction itself. Symbol of man’s immaturity, and senseless stupidity, no one with a shotgun, no one with a protest sign could take responsibility for this common failure. Martha the endling, the last living passenger pigeon, didn’t die alone; she died in a cage with the whole world watching.
The great auk was not a penguin. It bred on isolated rocky islands and swum about foraging in the North Atlantic from Canada to Great Britain. Black back, white belly, black beak flightless, web-footed, 30 to 33 inches tall, it loved menhaden, capelin, and shrimp. The last known breeding pair was killed in 1852 on Eldey, near Iceland, for a collector or European museum.
The Labrador sea duck, a.k.a., pied duck or skunk duck due to the male’s white and black feathers, a.k.a., sand shoal duck, was like an eider, taken for its feathers more than its meat, driven away by seaside towns and industry, was last seen when shot at Elmira, Long Island, 12 December 1878.
This small parrot or conure, green with yellow edges, yellow on its neck and red on its head, that lived along rivers, in swamps, and in old-growth forests from southern New York to the Gulf of Mexico in huge noisy flocks and ate toxic cockleburs and seeds of forest trees was considered to be an agricultural pest.
The heath hen was a kind of prairie chicken, which is a kind of grouse, hunted early and extensively because people liked to eat them. After extirpating them from the mainland, people tried to save them from extinction; however, a wildfire, a bad winter, predation by goshawks, and a disease transmitted by domestic poultry resulted in their ultimate demise.
Once numerous on the northern shores of Arctic Canada and Alaska, feeding on insects and berries, named the prairie pigeon, fute, little curlew, doe-bird, and doughbird, at the end of the nineteenth century, up to two million were killed each year until they exist only in rumors.
A seaside sparrow from salt marshes of Florida’s Atlantic Coast had a unique song and plumage. Draining of marshes to control mosquitos and to support sugar and oil industries combined with pollution and pesticides meant that the last wild populations were taken into custody for breeding programs, but these programs were unsuccessful.
Native Americans traded its bills and feathers, using them in costumes and sacred bundles. Once one of the largest woodpeckers, 20 inches long with a wingspan of 30 inches, the ivory-billed woodpecker was devastated by deforestation and hunting.
Breeding in the southwest U.S. and wintering in Cuba, Bachman’s warbler ate caterpillars, spiders, and other insects. Uncredited reports claimed that it survived loss of habitat, hurricanes, and plundering for its plumage into the 1980s.