The astounding story of the Passenger Pigeon: in our February issue and coming to your radio

1/2/2014 | 0

Mark Catesby included this rendering, the first colored drawing of a Passenger Pigeon, in The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1729–1747). From the collection of Garrie Landry

Mark Catesby included this rendering, the first colored drawing of a Passenger Pigeon, in The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1729–1747). From the collection of Garrie Landry

We are only months from the 100th anniversary of a major event — the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon.

The last known individual of the species, a female named Martha (after Martha Washington), died at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in Ohio on the first day of September 1914.

Throughout 2014, an international effort known as Project Passenger Pigeon will use a documentary film and a host of exhibits and programs to raise awareness of human-caused extinction, explore connections between humans and the natural world, and inspire the building of sustainable relationships with other species.

“It is our hope,” write the project’s organizers, “that the story of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction will serve as an opportunity to reflect and act, so that we can learn to better manage our relationships with other species and become more responsible members of the ecologically and evolutionarily dynamic natural communities in which we live.”

Naturalist and author Joel Greenberg.

Naturalist and author Joel Greenberg.

Naturalist Joel Greenberg, a research associate of the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum, is a founder and principal of Project Passenger Pigeon. He is also the author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (Bloomsburg, 2014), the first book about the Passenger Pigeon since 1955 and the first ever aimed at a general audience.

We can vouch for both the quality of Greenberg’s research and writing and the power of his story. We liked A Feathered River so much that we included it in the year-end roundup of notable books in our December 2013 issue, and we devoted six pages of our February 2014 issue to an article by Greenberg about the Passenger Pigeon’s abundance, amazing movements, nesting, and ultimate extinction. The issue will go on sale on newsstands January 7.

As coincidence would have it, that’s the same day that Greenberg will discuss the Passenger Pigeon and his book on one of our favorite radio shows: the Diane Rehm Show.

The Diane Rehm Show is produced in Washington, DC, at WAMU 88.5 and distributed by National Public Radio, NPR Worldwide, and SIRIUS satellite radio. You can also listen to the show on these public radio stations. Greenberg will be Rehm’s guest on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 11 am ET. We’ll be listening. – Chuck Hagner, Editor

Update: Listen to Joel Greenberg’s conversation with Diane Rehm, recorded January 7, 2014.

99 years without a Passenger Pigeon.

Read about “From Billions to None,” a documentary produced by Greenberg and filmmaker David Mrazek.