Martha, the Very Last Passenger Pigeon

At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, in a large glass case, “is a rusty-brown bird, wings mottled black and gray, mounted to appear as if she’s perching on a stick.”:

Martha “was a passenger pigeon,” and “the last of her kind.”

She “died at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens” a hundred years ago this month.

“Immediately after Martha’s body was discovered in the Cincinnati Zoo, scientists” packed her “into a 300-pound block of ice, then onto a train bound for Washington. Smithsonian officials received her three days later in “fine condition,” according to an account written by R.W. Shufeldt, the man who performed her dissection.”

Shufeldt, in an article published by the American Ornithologists’ Union, wrote: “With the final throb of that heart, still another bird became extinct for all time, the last representative of countless millions and unnumbered generations of its kind practically exterminated through man’s agency.”

The passenger pigeon was once “the most common bird in North America,” flying in flocks of “hundreds of millions, if not billions.”

Until the hunters came.