strange behaviors

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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The End of the Passenger Pigeon

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 1, 2012

Ninety-eight years ago today, what had once been the most abundant bird species in North America became extinct, when the last surviving Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Passenger pigeons flew in dense flocks, for protection from their many predators.  Cotton Mather once described a flock a mile wide that took hours to pass overhead.  But that same safety-in-numbers strategy made them vulnerable to hunting by humans, who easily slaughtered them with shotguns and nets, and shipped the carcasses by the boxcar load to the cities as cheap food.

Here’s John James Audubon’s description of passenger pigeon courtship behavior:

The male assumes a pompous demeanor, and follows the female, whether on the ground or on the branches, with spread tail and drooping wings, which it rubs against the part over which it is moving. The body is elevated, the throat swells, the eyes sparkle. He continues his notes, and now and then rises on the wing, and flies a few yards to approach the fugitive and timorous female. Like the domestic Pigeon and other species, they caress each other by billing, in which action, the bill of the one is introduced transversely into that of the other, and both parties alternately disgorge the contents of their crop by repeated efforts.

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One Response to “The End of the Passenger Pigeon”

  1. […] kind of campaign, Taylor acknowledges, the annual monarch butterfly migration, like that of the passenger pigeons, could vanish into the American […]

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