A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

Joel Greenberg. Bloomsbury, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62040-534-5
September 1, 2014, will mark 100 years since Martha, a lone passenger pigeon living in the Cincinnati Zoo, died. To the best of our knowledge she was the last member of her species. Naturalist Greenberg, a research associate at the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, effectively demonstrates that the extinction of passenger pigeons was a shocking event not simply because the species once enjoyed a population “that may have exceeded that of every other bird on earth, and its aggregations surpassed in numbers those of every other terrestrial vertebrate on the continent,” but also because its demise was so swift, with the population crashing from upwards of a billion to zero in about 40 years. Greenberg pulls together a wealth of material from myriad sources to describe the life and death of this species, describing the majesty of millions flying overhead for hours as well as the horror of tens of thousands of birds being slaughtered while they nested . He also examines the larger lessons to be learned from such an ecological catastrophe—brought on by commercial exploitation and deforestations, among other causes—in this “planet’s sixth great episode of mass extinctions.” Greenberg has crafted a story that is both ennobling and fascinating. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-1-62040-536-9
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