Birds you see everyday are not safe from extinction Museum mount of the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, that died in 1914 (Carl Hansen / Smithsonian)
Birds you see everyday are not safe from extinction

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Pigeons today are very common. So common that youd think they are indestructible. But think again. The pigeon you find practically all over the world today is the Rock Dove. It comes from the same family as the Passenger Pigeon.

Passenger Pigeons were once abundant. People assumed they could never go extinct. They were freely shot, netted, and smoked out of nests until they did go extinct. That was 100 years ago.

Even bird species that seem common are vulnerable to extinction from human impacts. Features of a birds life history may intersect with human activities for a lethal outcome.

The Passenger Pigeon had a habit of hanging out in huge flocks. That allowed hunters and trappers to kill hundreds at a time. For the infamous Dodo bird of Mauritius, its habit of nesting on the ground made it easy prey for rats and pigs. For todays familiar Rock Dove, some other feature of its life history may eventually be its downfall.

Scientists who study birds are called ornithologists. They work to understand what factors drive birds to extinction. They use fossil and historical evidence to peer into bird populations in the past. That provides evidence about cause and effect. The history of bird extinctions on islands is especially dramatic. That's because of their isolation.

You can find out how native bird species on the Hawaiian Islands went from hundreds to handfuls. Join us Thursday, Dec. 11. A Smithsonian Science How live webcast titled Bird Extinctions: Time Travel Through Lava Tubes, will air at 11 am and 2 pm (ET) on the National Museum of Natural History's Q?rius website.

Dr. Helen James, a paleo-ornithologist at the National Museum of Natural History, will appear live. She will discuss and answer questions.

Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience and be sure to watch for Smithsonian museum happenings as part of Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America.

Assigned 21 times

  • KaysaunH-Mau
    12/16/2014 - 11:26 a.m.

    I feel so bad for them. they sound so cool though.Why would people even kill them.I don't even know why they are extinct It was a great paper

  • Luis-Bes
    12/17/2014 - 03:57 p.m.

    Why would people kill birds anyway? Birds are in the phylum chordata who lay eggs so other birds can be born. If a bird lays an egg the next bird might be different from how the bird before looked and can start a different type of bird, and that's how the bird specie can become extinct.

  • RichardP-Phe
    2/25/2015 - 10:55 a.m.

    I don't see why they let them kill all of them! What do you think?

  • RichardP-Phe
    2/25/2015 - 10:57 a.m.

    I don't see why they let them kill all of them!

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