100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon became extinct.
Pigeon is a beautifully produced, gorgeously illustrated and fascinating book on pigeons and doves.
It looks at the varieties of domesticated pigeons and how they have been used in sport, for food and in delivering messages, including the vital roles they played in wartime.
The book also looks at how pigeons and doves have been portrayed in art and literature and how, despite being essentially the same group of birds, doves are portrayed as symbols of love, peave and fidelity while pigeons are often referred to as 'rats with wings' and treated as vermin.
Pigeons are amongst the most intelligent of birds, being one of the few species of animals (and apparently the only group of birds) that can recognise their own reflection in a mirror.
A whole chapter is devoted to the many species of pigeons that have become extinct, most notable the dodo and the passenger pigeon (which was once the most numerous bird on the planet).
R W Shufelt, who carried out the autopsy on Martha, the last passenger pigeon to die in captivity, said:
"In due course, the day will come when practically all the world's avifauna will have become utterly extinct..... Such a fate is coming to pass now, with far greater rapidity than most people realise".
Sadly, current population trends in many bird species in the UK and beyond seem to suggest that his prophecy will be proved correct.
Pigeon by Barbara Allen part of the Animal Series published by Reaktion Books. The Animal Series also includes Rabbit. (I suspect many readers of this blog may want to add that to their list of books to read!)
100 years ago today, the passenger pigeon becane extinct. Don't let the turtle dove go the same way.
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