To Bring Back Extinct Species, We’ll Need to Change Our Own – Facts So Romantic

Passenger pigeon eggs at the Maine State MuseumBrandon Keim; displayed courtesy of Paula Work, registrar & curator of zoology at the museum

The last passenger pigeon died just over a century ago, though they’ve lived on as symbols—of extinction’s awful finality, and also of a human carelessness so immense that it could exterminate without really trying what was the most populous bird in North America. Centennials being a form of ritual, much has been written about them recently: about flocks a mile wide turning mid-day skies black and taking days to pass, descending upon Eastern forests in a storm of life. 

Their sheer, vanished ubiquity is evident in the list of places named after passenger pigeons, which can be found just about everywhere east of the Mississippi and below the Arctic. In New York, where I live, there’s a Pigeon Mountain, Pigeon Creek, Pigeon Lake, two Pigeon Brooks and no fewer than four Pigeon Hills. There’s also a Pigeon Valley Cemetery and a Pigeon Valley Road, though the valley itself now goes by another name. 

Yet to some people, the passenger pigeon’s story doesn’t need to have an unhappy ending; they might fly yet again, resurrected by biotechnology.…
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