Images of Rare Passenger Pigeon Museum Specimens

100th anniversary of extinction

(Image credit: Laura Poppick, )

The passenger pigeon once clouded North American skies, with flocks of millions traveling across the continent. They went extinct in 1914 due to over hunting. The Harvard Museum of Natural History recently opened an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the bird's extinction, in hopes of reminding the public of this cautionary tale.

A lost species

(Image credit: Laura Poppick, )

The passenger pigeon resembles the feral rock pigeon that is common in cities around the world today, but had longer tail feathers.

Male specimen

(Image credit: Laura Poppick, )

Male passenger pigeons had red bellies.

Female specimen

(Image credit: Laura Poppick, )

Female passenger pigeons had beige bellies.

Lasting legacy

(Image credit: Laura Poppick, )

The Harvard Museum of Natural History hopes their exhibit will remind visitors of the passenger pigeon's story and the lasting impact it has had on the modern conservation movement. The bird's demise helped inspire the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that protected migratory birds from hunting without permit, and also lead the way for later legislation such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Laura Poppick
Live Science Contributor
Laura Poppick is a contributing writer for Live Science, with a focus on earth and environmental news. Laura has a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Laura has a good eye for finding fossils in unlikely places, will pull over to examine sedimentary layers in highway roadcuts, and has gone swimming in the Arctic Ocean.