The Last Surviving Passenger Pigeon Died In 1914 And Her Body Is Now Frozen Into A 300-Pound Block Of Ice At The Smithsonian’s Museum Of Natural History

Gordon - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual pigeon

In 1813, passenger pigeons were in abundance across the United States. Flocks of them used to fill the skies.

Some scientists thought that they once made up 25 to 40 percent of all birds in the country. Now, sadly, they are extinct.

On September 1, 1914, Martha, the passenger pigeon, was found dead on the floor of her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.

She was the last surviving member of her species. Previously, two male passenger pigeons had died in the same zoo in 1910.

Immediately after Martha was discovered, her body was frozen into a block of ice that weighed 300 pounds and sent to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, where it has stayed ever since.

At the museum, it was preserved as a taxidermy mount and an anatomical specimen. The specimen is one of the most valued treasures of the Smithsonian Institute.

It has also served as a reminder of the dangers of species extinction, especially with the current state of our planet.

“Before the 1840s, [passenger pigeons] were one of the most numerous species of birds in North America,” James Dean, the collections manager in the division of birds at the museum, said. “They occurred over much of the United States, from the central plains all the way over to the east.”

Passenger pigeons were twice the size of common pigeons. They lived in large flocks and primarily ate seeds and nuts.

Gordon – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual pigeon

Sign up for Chip Chick’s newsletter and get stories like this delivered to your inbox.

1 of 2