Birds you see everyday are not safe from extinction
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
Lexile: 960L

Assign to Google Classroom

Pigeons today are 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 (Columba livia). It comes from the same family as the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migrators).

Passenger Pigeons were once so abundant that 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.

For the Passenger Pigeon, its habit of hanging out in huge flocks 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 because of their isolation.

Find out how native bird species on the Hawaiian Islands went from hundreds to handfuls. Join us Thursday, Dec. 11, for a "Smithsonian Science How" live webcast titled Bird Extinctions: Time Travel Through Lava Tubes, airing 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.

Critical thinking challenge: What mistakes did people make that led to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon?

Source URL:

Assigned 91 times

  • SA2001orange
    12/08/2014 - 08:37 a.m.

    The mistakes people made that led to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was that people kept hunting them thinking they would never go extinct since there were so many of them.

  • AC2001curly
    12/08/2014 - 01:09 p.m.

    Everybody kills birds. Hunting doesn't help. People hunt them, kill them, and eat them. I think birds die everyday. They don't live a very long time.

  • Wilfreda-OBr
    12/08/2014 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think that is not cool killing birds, because if they get extinct it will mess with the food chain. If birds die out then rats and mice will over populate. Also, bugs will over populate and get people sick and there might not be anymore people. That's why these birds shouldn't turn out like the dodo birds. Oh, by the way, I should tell you that the passenger pigeons became extinct because they got together in large groups that made for easy mass killing. So, long passenger pigeons! The lesson here is don't get in big might kill you.

  • John0724-YYCA
    12/08/2014 - 09:19 p.m.

    This is a really good article because I have never known that pigeons are endangered because I always see them every day and especially at outdoor restaurants because they are probably looking for food. But I thin that even though they are very common I do not think that it is still a good idea to burn pigeons' nest and shoot them anytime because look what happened. That is why we should treat every living thing on earth with some respect.

    • Eugene0808-YYCA
      12/24/2014 - 04:20 p.m.

      John, every living thing is in risk of being extinct. Anything could happen to them so no one is safe. Pigeons aren't endangered yet. But, scientists says the pigeons are in risk of being extinct, even though there are so much of them. The people burned and shot passenger pigeons and then they became extinct.

    • Eric0221-YYCA
      12/31/2014 - 04:58 p.m.

      John, I disagree with your comment because all the living thing on earth has a risk of being extincted but at the end of your comment, it is true but the first sentence of the comment is not true because you said it is a good article but it is good but surprising. Sorry John, I had to disagree it but I think you should also put a critical thinking challenge at the end of you sentence.

  • Jason0421-YYCA
    12/08/2014 - 09:51 p.m.

    I think that it is sad for Rock Doves to become extinct when they used to be so common. I think that people should stop killing Rock Doves and stop killing other animals since it is not really necessary to kill them. I think that people are becoming corrupted since they are killing Rock Doves. This is bad since they think that anything that has a large quantity of, they would take it / kill it, like the Rock Dove. I think that this is insane.
    Critical thinking challenge: What mistakes did people make that led to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon?
    Answer: A mistake that led the extinction of Passenger Pigeons are the mass killing of the birds. People won't stop killing them so they got extinct.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    12/09/2014 - 12:43 a.m.

    I think this would be good to know because there are a lot of bird species in the world that are driven to the endangered category. This article gives us reasons on why the birds are driven into becoming endangered and that will become very helpful in right now. We have to save the birds from being extinct like the dodo or passenger pigeon. It was very wrong for people to keep killing the passenger pigeons because if they didn't kill off the passenger pigeons, then people in the present could see what they looked like and all the other animals that were extinct in modern times like the western black rhinoceros. If people didn't keep killing it, then we would be able to see it.
    Critical thinking challenge: What mistakes did people make that led to the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon?
    Answer: People thought that the passenger pigeon would never be extinct because they were so abundant. A 100 years later, passenger pigeons got extinct.

  • LilyE-4
    12/09/2014 - 02:10 a.m.

    Many people see birds everyday, and take no notice of them. One specific type of bird, the Rock Dove, is found virtually everywhere. Said pigeon comes from the same family as the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. The Passenger Pigeon became nonexistent after people freely shot, netted, and smoked out of nests. Many people thought that the birds would never go extinct, because they were such an abundant species. I think that people should we more aware that even the most common of birds, like the ones we see everyday in our community, can just as easily disappear with neglect.

  • kierstenw-Weh
    12/09/2014 - 10:04 a.m.

    I didn't even know passenger pigeons went extinct! The text states they went extinct 100 years ago! wow! It also states the pigeons we see every day are called "rock doves" I thought all pigeons where just pigeons and that passenger pigeons where trained pigeons. I think this was interesting.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment