By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today, September 1st, 2014 marks 100 years since the passenger pigeon went extinct, something thought unthinkable until it actually happened.READ MORE: Philadelphia's Fourth Of July Festivities Kick Off With Concert, Fireworks
Passenger pigeons were once common as dirt. “In the 18th and 19th Century, the passenger pigeon was actually the most abundant bird species in all of North America,” said Ya-Wei Li of Defenders of Wildlife.READ MORE: 2022 Wawa Welcome America Festival Guide: Road Closures, Public Transportation Information
Li says hunting and habitat loss cut into the birds’ numbers and when people finally began to notice the decline, a peculiarity of the passenger pigeon made breeding in captivity impossible.
“The passenger pigeon only initiates courtship and reproduces when they gather in large numbers, so if you have just a few passenger pigeons they don’t breed successfully,” Li said. “They couldn’t reproduce in zoos any more because they just didn’t have the numbers to initiate reproduction.”MORE NEWS: Rhys Hoskins, Darick Hall Homer, Lead Phillies Past Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
Li says the loss of this bird species is an object lesson in maintaining the Endangered Species Act, that extinction is forever.