PDF A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today

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The Passenger Pigeon & A Message From Martha: One Pigeon, Two Book Reviews

In Stock. Add to Wishlist. Product Details September 1st, sees the centenary of one of the best-documented extinctions in history the demise of the Passenger Pigeon. From being the commonest bird on the planet 50 years earlier, the species became extinct with the death in Cincinatti Zoo of Martha, the last of her kind. It is, in fact, likely that they only laid a single egg per nest. But he uses other aspects of their behavior to argue that they attempted a second nesting in a location far removed from the first.

The second part sees Avery, who is British, travel to America to see the former haunts of the Passenger Pigeon for himself.

He makes pilgrimages to sites important in the life of the bird, such as the Wisconsin Dells, where there was a massive nesting colony in how massive? It was estimated at million birds! Of course, he also visits where the bird died — the location where the last known Passenger Pigeon was shot in the wild and the Cincinnati Zoo, where Martha lived and died — just as Christopher Cokinos did in his lyrical book on extinct birds, Hope Is the Thing With Feathers.

A Message from Martha - British Birds

This section reads more like a travelogue, with Avery recording interactions with people, such as waitresses and park rangers, in addition to his reactions to seeing the places formerly inhabited by the now-extinct bird. There are some insights to be gleaned here, though mostly for those unfamiliar with these locations specifically and, especially, America as a whole. Learning about the pigeon and where it lived are fully worthwhile, but Avery wants to look beyond this to see if there are lessons in what happened to the Passenger Pigeon that can be applied today.

It highlights the important events that happened each year, such as the Civil War, but it also includes ecological events missing in most history books.

A Message from Martha ends with the author back at home in England, where he draws comparisons between the Passenger Pigeon and what is happening with the Turtle Dove today. In a diary-style format, he tells about the drastic decline of the dove in England and what is being done to save it.

From Billions to Zero in 50 Years - The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Unfortunately, that seems to be too little. I found this section interesting, but I can see how some would think it a bit tedious.

Two smart books to share about the Passenger Pigeon

But his concluding point is vitally important. While written specifically about British farming, one could easily substitute any number of other issues from around the world. Ultimately, that is the message that Avery supposes Martha would give to us today.


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We are not ignorant of our impact, like those who wiped out the Passenger Pigeon. But will we care enough to do so?

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As a book, I was slightly disappointed in it. It felt like a great concept that was drawn out a little too much. But it is informative, especially to those not already familiar with the tale of the Passenger Pigeon. And, more importantly, it is a crucial message; one that I hope finds a widespread audience.


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