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(Compiled by Joel Greenberg)
Indiana knew passenger pigeons as nesting birds throughout its length and breadth but mostly as singles or small colonies. Many more passed through in spring and fall, or stayed throughout the winter. The size of their winter roosts depended on the availability of mast, mostly beechnuts. Amos Butler, in Birds of Indiana (1897), says that on occasion he found frozen birds during bouts of severe cold.
Last Records of the Passenger Pigeon:
The last passenger pigeon known to be shot in the wild for which there is no doubt was killed on April 3, 1902 in Laurel, Franklin County. Inspired by this record, a memorial to this bird was installed on April 3, 2017 at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site in Metamora, Franklin County.
Places Likely Named for Passenger Pigeon:
There are at least 16 places in Indiana with pigeon in the name and at least one other referring to the bird:
Pigeon Roost (rise) in Floyd County
Pigeon Lake in La Grange County and Steuben County.
Pigeon River State Fish and Wildlife Area in La Grange County
Pigeon Ridge (rise) in Martin County
Pigeon Roost Station (town) in Scott County
Pigeon Creek Church in Spencer County.
Pigeon (town) in Spencer County
Pigeon Roost Hill (rise) in Starke County.
Pigeon Creek (stream) in Steuben County and Vanderburgh County.
Pigeon Township in Vanderburgh County and Warrick Township.
Pigeon Roost Memorial (park) in Washington County.
Pigeon Roost Creek (stream) in Washington County.
Pigeon Number Two Ditch (canal) in Wells County.
Huntingburg (town named for nearby pigeon roost that drew numerous hunters) in Du Bois County.
Passenger pigeon remains have been found at the Bowen site, among the most important Woodland Period settlements in the state. Located on a glacial out-wash terrace, it is located on the banks of the White River in Marion County. Bowen was started around 1000 AD by people influenced by the Mississippian culture.
Passenger pigeon bones have also been recovered at Angel Mounds State Historic Site, near Evansville. About 500 to 700 years ago, the area was a thriving Mississippian Indian town and was indeed the largest settlement in Indiana. It served as the center of trade, government and religion for smaller satellite communities within a 70-mile radius. The site is maintained by the Indiana State Museum and opened to the public.
[My father] says, in 1831-2, the pigeon roosts in the vicinity of Vernon, which had become noted as the most extensive in that part of the State, were occupied by great numbers of pigeons. They moved in flocks so large the sky could not be seen in any direction as far as the eye could reach. They also nested in that locality in great abundance. Amos Butler, Birds of Indiana (1897)
The pigeons came in such flocks [in Wabash County] that we frequently found places where they had settled so thickly on the branches of trees having brittle wood, such as maple and beech, that quite good-sized limbs had been broken down from the weight of the pigeons that swarmed over then to brood by night. In my childhood it was customary for men to take long poles and big bags and lanterns and go searching through the woods until they found of these perching places of the pigeons. The half-a-dozen men would flash the lanterns in such a manner that the light would blind the birds, and with the clubs others would beat the birds from the limbs, strike them down and gather them up by the bagful. Gene Stratton-Porter (mid 1870s), Tales You Won't Believe (1925)
In the early seventies of the last century, wild pigeons were plentiful in Dubois County. They flew over Jasper in flocks long enough to hide the sun, often in what seemed a quarter of a mile wide and twice as long. Occasionally they would feed on the mast on what is now "Little Round Top" — the residence of Wm. F. Beckman, near the center of Section 26, at Jasper, then they flew eastward across Buffalo Pond. In that flight they often swooped down the valley between and in doing so a few hit the buildings at the home of the writer. Then it became his duty to gather up the birds that had broken a wing or became otherwise unable to fly. Mother used to make a wild pigeon pie . . . George Wilson, Historical Notes on DuBois County, Vol. VII, date unknown, Jasper, IN Public Library (courtesy of Theresia Schwinghammer)
Formerly abundant. Would light in our wheat and soon eat the whole crop. They both roosted and nested here. We trapped them. I only recall seeing one pigeon after 1900. Ned Barker, Sumava, and Amos Butler notes
Indiana Locations known to have Passenger Pigeon Skins, Mounts, and or Skeletons:
Clarksville: *Falls of the Ohio State Park
Indianapolis: Indiana State Museum
South Bend: *Notre Dame Natural History Museum at Notre Dame University
Richmond: *Joseph Moore Museum at Earlham College
* If an asterisk appears, at least one passenger pigeon is known to be on display; this list is mainly based on Hahn's Where is That Vanished Bird (1963). Please let us know of any changes including additional locations and/or birds on display, name changes of institution, if birds are no longer present, etc.
Read Fascinating Historical Accounts of the Passenger Pigeon in Indiana
Wisconsin’s A.W. [Bill] Schorger (1884-1972) spent many years researching the history of the Passenger Pigeon, and he summarized his findings in his 1955 book, The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction. At the time of its publication, the book was the most comprehensive account of the species. Schorger did an excellent job summarizing the nearly 10,000 historical records he discovered in libraries and historical societies around the country, but his original research notes contain many additional details.
For the 2014 centennial, Professor Stanley Temple of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has made all Schorger’s handwritten research notes available in digital form. This link will take you to a table that provides details of all the historical records Bill Schorger discovered for Indiana. [Schorger-IN.pdf]
Read Historical Accounts from Shorger's Original Field Notes about the Passenger Pigeon in Indiana
These sources are newly available on the Passenger Pigeon site (as of January 25, 2014). The links below give access to often-firsthand, eyewitness accounts of pigeons, the table includes a cross reference to the exact page in Schorger’s notes where you can read the full text of the account and find a citation of the original source document. All these historical documents are in PDF format in sizes ranging from 24mb - 60mb. These documents will open in their own window. Use the links below to find the page containing the account you’re interested in exploring further:
Schorger pages 1-329
Schorger pages 330-632
Schorger pages 633-959
Schorger pages 960-1242
Schorger pages 1243-1585
Schorger pages 1586-1890
Schorger pages 1891-2232
Schorger pages 2233-2556
_________________ Your text contributions on passenger pigeons
in the U.S. or Canada are welcome. Email your text notes to us. Include: first and last name, and the State or Province you reference in the Subject Line. (Return to Home Page Map of Project Passenger Pigeon)
Your text contributions on passenger pigeons
in the U.S. or Canada are welcome. Email your text notes to us. Include: first and last name, and the State or Province you reference in the Subject Line.
(Return to Home Page Map of Project Passenger Pigeon)