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Extinct Bird discovered at Birmingham Museum

Extinct Bird discovered at Birmingham Museum

2nd September 2014

An unknown bird found in the stores of Birmingham Museum has recently been identified as an important example of an extinct species called the passenger pigeon. By a remarkable coincidence, curatorial trainee Lukas Large discovered it as the 100th anniversary of the death of the last ever passenger pigeon approached.

The North American passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) lived in huge flocks and was once the commonest bird in the world with an estimated population of 3 billion individuals. The population was reduced by hunting and habitat destruction until the flocks were too small to survive.

By around 1900 passenger pigeons were extinct in the wild. A pigeon called Martha in Cincinnati Zoo was the last survivor. Her lonely death on the 1st of September 1914 marked the end of her species. Unlike Martha, the Birmingham pigeon is a male, which were more colourful. 

Birmingham’s natural science collection is the largest in the West Midlands and consists of over 250,000 objects. There are particularly significant collections of birds, shells, insects and plants. Selected specimens are on display in the Wild Life gallery at Thinktank.

For the next month, the rediscovered Birmingham passenger pigeon will be on display in Millennium Point outside of Thinktank Science Museum. 

Passenger Pigeon facts;

  • The rediscovered specimen was in storage at the Birmingham Museums store (called the Museum Collection Centre) but it was not identified as an important example of an extinct species.
  • The specimen was recognised as a passenger pigeon by natural science curatorial trainee Lukas Large.
  • The passenger pigeon will be on display over the next month at Millennium Point, outside Thinktank Science Museum.
  • Birmingham’s natural science collection is the largest in the West Midlands, containing over 250,000 objects. Some are on display in the Wild Life gallery at Thinktank.
  • The passenger pigeon was once the most common bird in the world before it was driven to extinction by hunting and habitat destruction
  • Passenger pigeons were extinct in the wild by around 1900. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in Cincinnati Zoo on the 1st of September 1914.


 

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