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A Rare Bird

The history museum probes the Case of the Missing Pigeon

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No one’s seen a passenger pigeon in nearly a century. Harvey Webster explains why at tonight’s Of Mast & Men: The Life, Times, and Demise of the Passenger Pigeon program at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. More than five billion pigeons lived in Ohio until the late 1800s. But deforestation killed the birds’ favorite food -- beech nuts -- leading to their extinction in 1914. Hunters didn’t help either. “Whenever they had these great nestings, everybody would shoot the living bejeezus out of them,” says Webster, the museum’s plainspoken wildlife-resources director. The hunters would “harvest them, pack them in barrels, and send them off to cities, where everybody got pigeon pot pies.”

Webster will show off stuffed replicas of the birds at his talk tonight -- which includes the sad tale of Martha, the world’s last passenger pigeon. She died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. “They were a huge part of the North American wilderness,” says Webster. “For something to succumb to overhunting and industrialization<\!s>.<\!s>.<\!s>. It’s a powerful story we need to be reminded of.”
Fri., Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m.

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