Species Profile

Passenger Pigeon

Scientific Name: Ectopistes migratorius
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2000
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extinct
SARA Status: No Schedule, No Status

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extinction | Documents

Image of Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon Photo 1



The Passenger Pigeon was a large pigeon with a long pointed tail. The adult male had blue-grey upper parts with black tips to the wings and tail; a dark rust throat; and a breast of lighter rust; its eyes were red. The adult female had a duller plumage, with brownish upper parts and a lighter, brownish throat and breast; its eyes were black. The young passenger pigeons resembled the females, but the tips of the feathers on the head, neck and upper breast were white.


Distribution and Population

In Canada, the breeding areas of the Passenger Pigeon included eastern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, southern Quebec, Anticosti Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Passenger Pigeons wintered in the southeastern United States.



Passenger Pigeons were formerly very common in the deciduous forests of eastern North America.



Passenger Pigeons usually nested in large, sometimes immense colonies, some of which occupied hundreds of square kilometers. They built their stick nests on tree branches, from 2.4-15 m above the ground. Usually only one egg was laid per clutch, although a pair could produce two or more broods a year. During migrations, passenger pigeons were once so numerous that they darkened the sky.


Reasons for extinction

The number of Passenger Pigeons was greatly reduced by market hunting, but this slaughter ceased when tens of thousands of the birds still remained, and suitable habitat was still available. It has been suggested that the colonies may have become so small that predators were able to have a significant impact. The last individual died in captivity, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 1, 1914.




PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

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