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 Passenger Pigeon

Status in Michigan

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Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
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Count totals in the NMB Databases for Passenger Pigeon.

Use the links below to view the Passenger Pigeon reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View Passenger Pigeon sightings.
Passenger Pigeon Archives Reports
Fall 2003 0
Spring 2003 0
Winter 02-03 0
Fall 2002 0
Summer 2002 0
Spring 2002 0
Winter 01-02 0
Fall 2001 0
Summer 2001 0
Spring 2001 0
Winter 00-01 0
Fall 2000 0
Summer 2000 0
Spring 2000 0
Winter 00-99 0
Fall 1999 0
Spring/Summer 1999 0

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Passenger Pigeon

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Passenger Pigeon
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Passenger Pigeon
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text
The Birds of Michigan - by: Norman A. Wood
Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75

Ectopistes migratorius (Linnaeus)
Passenger Pigeon

Extinct. Formerly a very common summer resident. Last Michigan specimen collected in 1898.

First recorded for Michigan by Jacques Marquette (letter, 1670, The Jesuit Relations, 54: 189) and A. de la Mothe Cadillac (letter, 1702, Mich. Pioneer and Hist. Coll., 33:135).

SPRING.-Definite information pertaining to the migratory movements of the species in Michigan is very meager. Gibbs (1902o; 178-79) stated that it arrived in Kalamazoo County between February 25 and April 3. E. S. "Wilson (1934: 158) recalled that it arrived in Leelanau County in late April and immediately began nesting; E. T. Martin (Mershon, 1907:93) made similar observations in the vicinity of Petoskey, Emmet County, where he found it starting to nest soon after the middle of March in 1878.

SUMMER.-The nesting period apparently extended from mid-March or early April to the last of June or early July.

Lower Peninsula.-There are several reports from old residents of south- eastern Michigan that the Passenger Pigeon nested in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. Gibbs (1885: 150) found nests in Kalamazoo County; large nestings were noted in Van Buren County (Mershon, 1907: 58-59; 169-170) by Simon Pokagon in 1866 (northwestern part of county), by Sullivan Cook in 1869 (near Hartford), and by Ephraim Osborn in 1872 (near South Haven). Nesting was reported near Grand Rapids in 1858 or 1859, and near Stanton, Montcalm County, in 1874, by Ephraim Osborn (Mershon, 1907: 114, 117); and in Newaygo, Oceana, and Grand Traverse counties in 1876 by H. B. Roney (Mershon, 1907: 77). A nesting site (estimated to be 12 by 3 miles in extent) near Shelby, Oceana County, was visited in mid-April by Gunn (1876: 29-30). Ephraim Osborn (Mershon, 1907: 113) reported nesting near Manistee in 1868, and near Mount Pleasant, Isabella County, in 1869. E. S. Wilson (1934: 159) remembered a nesting site near Northport, Leelanau County, that was more than 22 miles long and 3 miles wide. The largest nesting recorded in Michigan occurred in 1878 near Petoskey, Emmet County. This nesting site was variously estimated to have been 28 to 40 miles long and 3 to 10 miles wide (Bent, 1932:398; Mershon, 1907 : 82), and from it probably several million pigeons were taken. In the same year there was a large nesting at the Manistee River in Kalkaska County said by E. T. Martin (Mershon, 1907: 94) to have been 28 miles long by 5 miles wide. Other nestings were reported at Boyne Falls, Charlevoix County (Mershon, 1907: 94); and near Burt Lake, Cheboygan County (Mershon, 1907: 93).

FALL.-According to M. H. Mitchell (1935: 82-83) the Passenger Pigeon apparently migrated southward in late September from Ontario. The only fall information for Michigan is apparently a letter written by J. B. Purdy to 0. B. Warren (Mershon, 1907: 130-31) in which Purdy stated that the birds arrived near Plymouth, Wayne County, between September 1 and 15.

DISAPPEARANCE FROM THE STATE: E. S. Wilson (1934: 166) did not ob- serve Passenger Pigeons nesting in Leelanau County after 1877. S. S. Stevens (Mershon, 1907: 63) stated that "the last nesting of importance in Michigan was in 1881, a few miles west of Grand Traverse. It was only of moderate size, perhaps 8 miles long." In 1886, Stevens saw about 600 pairs nesting near Lake City, Missaukee County (Mershon, 1907: 63). "William Brewster (1889: 285-86) was reliably informed that there had been a large flight of Passenger Pigeons in the spring of 1888 in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula. No large nesting was found that year, although Brewster and Jonathan Dwight saw scattered pairs of the birds nesting in the vicinity of Cadillac, Wexford County, and of Oden, Emmet County, in May. In a letter to Mershon (1907: 160), E. E. Brewster stated that a colony of less than 100 birds nested near Deerskin Lake, Iron County, in 1888; in the fall of that year F. W. Rapp (1931: 35) saw a flock of about 200 near Vicksburg, Kalamazoo County. A nest with 1 egg was collected by C. F. Clingman near Baldwin, Lake County, on June 18, 2023 (Coale, 1925: 138), and 2 birds were seen by L. Whitney Watkins (1894: 934) in Jackson County in mid-June, 1894. Twelve or more Passenger Pigeons were seen by Chase S. Osborn (Deane, 1897: 317) in eastern Chippewa County in 1896, and Simon Pokagon informed Mershon (1907: 222) that a small colony nested near the headwaters of the Au Sable River (presumably in Otsego County), in 1896, and L. Whitney Watkins and others (1897:27) believed that the Passenger Pigeon was increasing slowly in Michigan in 1896. The last known authentic specimen collected in Michigan was taken in Dearborn Township, Wayne County, by Frank Clements (pseudonym of P. E. Moody) on September 14, 1898. The specimen, an immature male, is in the collection of J. H. Fleming (Moody, 1903&: 81), now incorporated in the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology.

Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]


Passenger Pigeon Records-complied by Jon Wuepper


Niles Inquirer (NI), 4 December 1839:
"Great pigeon shooting. Mr. Henry Keats recently shot 18 shots at 784 pigeons. They were on a sand bar where they had alighted for gravel and water." (Probably on the St. Joseph River)
NI, 16 June 1842:
"We understand that the woods are alive with pigeons at Berrien [Berrien Springs]. The trees on about 1000 acres are covered with them, and their thunder can be heard at a great distance."
Niles Republican (NR), 29 April 2023
"Pigeons-warm weather has brot [sic] innumerable quantities of pigeons. The air is filled with them, and in the morning so densely that they darkened the sun. A continual firing of guns is kept up, and a graceless scamp was heard singing the following:
When I shoot my rifle clear,
to pigeons in the skies,
I'll bid farewell to pork and beans,
And live on good pot pies".
NR, 29 May 1843:
PIGEONS!-A gentleman from Berrien [Berrien Springs] informs us that about three and a half miles from that village, the pigeons have taken possession of the woods, about 5 miles square, were they are nesting, and that there is from 10 to 75 nests on each tree. Large branches of trees have been broken by them and the ground is strewn with eggs.
On approaching the spot, one would imagine that he was near the Falls of Niagra, so incessant and loud is their thunder".
Niles Republican (NR), 6 December 1846:
"Pigeons, for the last few days, have been flying north in vast numbers. We learn that the beach [beech] woods between this [town, (Niles)] and Lake Michigan are literally lined with them. This is the first season since 1829 that they have been noticed this far north at this season of the year. In that year they wintered in the neighboring woods. Prognosticators augur a mild winter."
Niles Inquirer (NI), 12 December 1846:
"Snow-winter is upon us, but not without its customed severity The ground was covered with snow on Thursday morning, and what is singular, the air was filled with pigeons making their way north. They have left their southern harbors at the wrong time, and it is probable that they will all perish."
NI, 1 September 1849:
"Many of our subscribers within two miles will take the trouble to make a bed and bait it with pigeons, in some place where sportsmen will keep away with their guns. We will visit them with our pigeon net and supply them with as many pigeons as they desire."
NR, 16 March 1850:
"Pigeons begin to arrive from the sunny south with their crops full of rice."
NR, 20 April 1850:
"MILLIONS OF PIGEONS ROOSTING-Letters from Indiana complain that some of the pigeon roosts cover the forests for miles, destroying the timber. A letter from Laurel says:
        'I am completely worn down. The pigeons are roosting all through our woods, and the roost extends for miles. Our neighbors and ourselves have, for several days, had to build large fires and keep up [unreadable word] of fire arms to scare them off. While I write, within a quarter of a mile, there are thirty guns firing. The pigeons roam in such large quantities as to destroy a great deal of timber, break limbs off large trees, and even tear up some by the roots. The woods are covered with dead pigeons, and the hogs are getting fat on them. Our old friend Hendrick killed 50 at four shots.'
        Only 50 at four shots! Dr. Richardson of our town [Niles] last week killed 42 pigeons at one shot with a double barrel gun, discharging both barrels at the same instant."
NI, 1 February 1851:
"The thousands of wild pigeons, that were seen flying north the forepart of this week, must meet with a sad fate."
NI, 12 April 1851:
"Our friends from the north are continually sending us word that an immense number of pigeons have congregated in the woods near the lakeshore."
NR, 17 September 1853:
"Pigeons have appeared in this section in vast numbers. Many farmers have to employ men with guns to keep them off their fields until their wheat can be dragged in. During Monday and Tuesday [12-13 September] afternoons, we captured three hundred, which will provide our table for a few weeks whether our old delinquents are paid up or not."
NR, 1 April 1854:
"PIGEONS-Millions and millions of pigeons throng the woods north of Berrien [now Berrien Springs], like the which we have never before seen. Gunners are killing thousands-They are nesting in the Pipestone woods [in Pipestone Twp.], and still further north. Lovers of 'squabs' will be on hand in due season."
NI, 20 April 1854:
"We lately spread the pigeon net over not less than 500 pigeons and they took up the net, hooks, and all, and left in double quick time."
NR, 12 September 1857:
"PIGEONS-These winged beauties throne about us by thousands. They are in every wheat field, following up the sowers, filling their crops in many fields fresh from the bags. Boys, dogs and guns are employed in many places in keeping them off. We have been somewhat busy this week in capturing them with a net, an amusement more exciting so far than profitable."
NR, 12 September 1857:
"Pigeons are very plenty just now and sportsman have had excellent success in bringing them down. Who will be generous enough to furnish the printer with the materials for a 'pigeon pie?'.-White Pigeon Era [Originally published at White Pigeon, St. Joseph County, Michigan]
We have been out, neighbor, this week with our net and the consequences is we have a fine lot up and fatting, if you drop down this way we will give you a chance into a 'pigeon pie.'"
St. Joseph Traveler, 7 March 1860:
"The woods and fields in this section are literally swarming with Pigeons. Our sportsmen are having a fine time shooting them."
St. Joseph Traveler, 5 September 1860:
"…on every side of them (except the roads) are the virgin forests, forests where wild deer yet roam, the wild pigeons breed, and the black squirrels chatter in undisturbed serenity…"
NR, 1 April 1869:
"Wild Pigeons are quite plenty in this region, and the frequent report of the sportsman's gun will be taken on evidence that hunters are after them."
Niles Democrat, 3 April 1969:
"Pigeons-During the past week, millions upon millions of pigeons have passed over this place [Niles] on their way to the immense forests of the north. Our sportsmen shot 60 the other morning on the wing."
Niles Democrat, 10 April 1869:
"Pigeon Shooting-Messrs. Henry Misener and Frank Bort shot seventy-nine pigeons Tuesday afternoon [6 April 2023] They will please accept our thanks for a fine string."
St. Joseph Saturday-Herald, 11 March 1871:
"It is time for the pigeon's flight. A very few have been seen."
St. Joseph Saturday-Herald, 18 March 1871:
"Wild pigeons in large flocks made there appearance on Wednesday [15 March 2023]."
Berrien County Record, 27 April 1871:
"BOY SHOT-Last Tuesday [25 April 2023], George Crook, of this village [Benton Harbor], was out shooting pigeons and accidentally discharged his gun, which was pointed towards his brother. The gun was loaded with shot, which struck the boy in the face. Dr. Geo. Bell extracted the shot and dressed the wound, which is not a serious one---Benton Harbor Palladium."

Berrien County Record, 25 May 1871:
"FROM ST. JOSEPH. May 22d, 1871
EDITORS RECORD:--The dullness of the season was broken to-day by a ripple of excitement occasioned by the pigeon shooting this afternoon. The shooting took place on the sand [present day Tiscornia Park] north of the [St. Joseph] river, and was witnessed by a large number of people. There were six matches, as follows:

Number of Birds Birds Killed
E.C. Hoyt 10 6
H.C. Rockwell 10 4
Ed. Hatch 15 9
T.T. Ransom 15 7
Ed. Brain 20 14
Jas. Clark 20 13
J. Hatch 10 7
T.T. Ransom 10 9
Dick Burke 10 4
Sam. Hull 10 3
Jas. Clark 30 20
Ed. Brain 30 22
Berrien County Record, 31 August 1871:
"PIGEONS-We have noticed several droves of pigeons flying over our village [Buchanan]. In a few days, they will be plenty, so it is time for our sportsmen to be sharpening their guns."
Niles Democrat, 12 September 1871:
"Wild pigeons are looking around Buchanan for a place to roost."
Berrien County Record, 5 October 1871:
"PIGEONS-The pigeons are flying over in large droves. They appear to be leaving this part of the country in search of fields anew and pastures green."
Berrien County Record, 29 August 1872:
"Pigeons are already on hand waiting for farmers to commence seeding. Sportsmen are jubilant and thrive well on pigeon pie."
Berrien County Record, 11 September 1873:
"PIGEON HUNTING-Nearly every sportsman in town [Buchanan] tried his luck at shooting pigeons this week. Pigeons are not reported very plenty this season."
St. Joseph Saturday-Herald, 12 September 1874:
"Several of our sportsmen had a pigeon shoot across the [St. Joseph] river on Tuesday [8 September 2023]. There was some good shooting done then."
St. Joseph Saturday-Herald, 15 September 1877:
"Messers Edwards and Wilson went pigeon hunting in the Tryon neighborhood [Royalton Twp.] on Thursday [13 September 2023], and succeeded in bagging 24 of the game. They report the birds in fine condition, many of the females containing a liberal showing of eggs." [1877 was rather late for pigeon nesting in the Southern Lower Peninsula.]
St. Joseph Saturday-Herald, 20 September 1879:
"We learn that E.M. Edwards and Dr. Pettitt bagged a lot of pigeons in Royalton [township] on Wednesday [17 September 2023]-the first we are told, of the season.
On Thursday [18 September 2023] Marshall Hannon and a companion shot several dozen in Hagar [township]."
UMMZ Specimen #121877:
One taken 11 October 1883: "Shore, North of Old St. Joe", meaning the north shore of the St. Joseph River at St. Joseph, Michigan.
Dunn, J. 1895. The Passenger Pigeon in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Auk 12:389:
The last known Passenger Pigeon record in Berrien County, Michigan occurred on 27 May 1894, when a flock of about 20 birds were observed in the southern part of the county, about three miles from the Indiana state line.


Cass County Republican, circa spring 1860:
"PIGEONS---The pigeons in this section have been very destructive to corn just planted or coming out of the ground. We hear of farmers who have had from ten to twenty acres pulled up which they were compelled to replant. Their nesting places are in the woods near the lake shore [Lake Michigan], from which they pour forth in the morning by thousands in search of food."
Eggs and nest specimens from Barron Lake, Howard Twp., Cass County, c1870 are archived at the Ft. St. Joseph Museum in Niles.


According to "Birds of Michigan" (Adams and McPeek 1994), Passenger Pigeons nested in Emmett County in 1888.


According to "Birds of Michigan" (Adams and McPeek 1994), Passenger Pigeons nested in Iron County in 1888. Iron County is in the western part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.


According to "Birds of Michigan" (Adams and McPeek 1994), one of the last nesting grounds of the Passenger Pigeon was in Missaukee County in 1886.


Butler, A. 1897. Birds of Indiana:
"At Grand Haven, Michigan [Ottawa County], one was seen 3 May 1894."


(See Niles Republican, 12 September 1857, under Berrien County, Michigan).


The final Michigan record of a Passenger Pigeon, was of one shot in Wayne County on 1 September 1898.


Passenger Pigeons nested in Wexford County in 1888, accoriding to "Birds of Michigan" (Adams and McPeek 1994).

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