Passenger Pigeon by John James Audubon

Brandywine General Store

SKU: 62 audubon

An archival premium Quality art Print of the now extinct Passenger Pigeon by John James Audubon for sale by Brandywine General Store. In this painting the artist features a pair of the pigeons with the male feeding the female as was common when the birds were nesting. They are very colorful having colors of red, blue, black, brown and white, with the male exhibiting much more color than his mate. Audubon painted these pigeons for his great ornithology book, The Birds of America which was published in the 1820s to 1830s. These colorful birds were picture or plate number 62 in the 1st Havell edition. A great print of this now extinct bird. Mr. Audubon describes the passenger pigeons in the book as "The Passenger Pigeon, or, as it is usually named in America, the Wild Pigeon, moves with extreme rapidity, propelling itself by quickly repeated flaps of the wings, which it brings more or less near to the body, according to the degree of velocity which is required. Like the Domestic Pigeon, it often flies, during the love season, in a circling manner, supporting itself with both wings angularly elevated, in which position it keeps them until it is about to alight. Now and then, during these circular flights, the tips of the primary quills of each wing are made to strike against each other, producing a smart rap, which may be heard at a distance of thirty or forty yards. Before alighting, the Wild Pigeon, like the Carolina Parrot and a few other species of birds, breaks the force of its flight by repeated flappings, as if apprehensive of receiving injury from coming too suddenly into contact with the branch or the spot of ground on which it intends to settle. In the autumn of 1813, I left my house at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. In passing over the Barrens a few miles beyond Hardensburgh, I observed the Pigeons flying from north-east to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes. I travelled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse, the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose..." He goes on in great detail in describing how big flocks of these birds were in early America. One time he was in with farmers and settlers when they were waiting for a great flock of these pigeons to arrive along the bank of the Green River in Kentucky. When the birds flew over, they made a huge draft of air and lighted on trees breaking branches and even whole trees would fall under the weight of the great mulititude of pigeons. People were there to kill the pigeons, some cleaning them for sale to eat and the farmers brought hundreds of hogs, which were allowed to feast on the dead birds. The Passenger Pigeon was most likely the most populous bird on the planet during the period leading up to the mid 19th century. Estimates range from 2 to 5 billion of these birds existed at this time. Single flocks of these pigeons would consist of millions of birds and when flying overhead would fill the sky with a space of a mile wide and couple miles long and these huge migrations would darken the sky for a couple days at a time. However, since these birds were so plentiful they afforded cheap meat for the poorer people in the big eastern cities. Around the middle 1800s these birds started being hunted heavily for meat, selling for as cheap as 50 cents for a dozen of birds. The passenger pigeon was a community bird finding strength in their large flock numbers, this helped them with animal predators, but hurt when man started hunting them. Due to the large numbers together, sometimes as many as 100 or more nests would be found in a single tree and a nesting community could cover up to 800 square miles of land. Therefore these could be shot as fast as the guns could be loaded, sulfur pots were also placed under trees to daze the birds and hundreds would fall to the ground. It seems like the pigeons would give up when their nesting communities numbers got down to the low thousands, at this point the birds would quit breeding and in a few years this community would exist no more. The last remaining reported birds to be shot were at Babcock Wisconsin in 1899 and then again in Pike County Ohio in March of 1900. A few remained in captivity, however these would not breed. The last remaining passenger pigeon in the World was named Martha, named after Martha Washington, she lived at the Cincinnati Zoo and died on September 01, 1914 at the age of 29 years. Audubon bird print #62

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