Presentation to mark anniversary of passenger pigeon's extinction

By Hannah Lane
March 29, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A noted endangered-species expert will speak at Penn State to mark the 100th anniversary of perhaps the most iconic extinction event in United States history -- the loss of the passenger pigeon.

Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has spent his career working to save endangered species and habitats on which they depend, will present "The Passenger Pigeon's Extinction: Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future," from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 3.

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be offered in 112 Forest Resources Building. It is sponsored by The Arboretum at Penn State's Avian Education program and the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.

For 32 years, Temple held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold. In 1947, Leopold penned one of his most poignant essays about extinction, "On a Monument to the Pigeon," which later appeared in his classic book, "A Sand County Almanac." Temple is currently a senior fellow with the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

On the occasion of the 2014 centennial of this tragic extinction, Temple recounts the sobering story of the passenger pigeon and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

Passenger pigeons, once so numerous that their flocks "darkened the sky," according to early naturalist John James Aubudon, became extinct in 1914 when the last surviving passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo.

"The event ended a calamitous half-century in which the pigeon declined from billions to one, and then to none as a result of uncontrolled market hunting and the resulting disruption of nesting colonies," said Margaret Brittingham, professor of wildlife resources and extension wildlife specialist at Penn State.

For more information, contact Brittingham at 814-863-8442 or by email at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 09, 2015