Friday, January 23, 2009

Last Days of the Passenger Pigeon in Southwestern Michigan

In 2007, Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister of Long Haul Productions produced an audio documentary entitled The Sad Decline of the Passenger Pigeon. This story first appeared in the Heartland Chronicles, "a series of radio documentaries set in and around Middle America, exploring the region’s people and communities."

The story focuses on the former abundance of Passenger Pigeons in southwestern Michigan, particularly Berrien County, and their rapid decline in the last decades of the 19th century. I herewith reproduce their introduction to this piece, followed by a link to the audio file:
At one time, it was believed there were as many as five billion Passenger Pigeons in eastern North America. By the mid nineteenth century, their numbers began to decline sharply – killed by sportsman, commercial hunters and by farmers angry as the birds began raiding farm fields as forests disappeared to logging. Jon Wuepper, a naturalist and historian, documented the decline of the pigeon in southwest Michigan by scouring sixty-plus years of newspaper articles, beginning in the late 1830’s. He traced the decline through 1894, when the last bird was killed in the area. Wuepper tells the story.
The audio file (.mp3) has a running time of about 8 minutes.

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