A Life Returned

One morning a few weeks ago, I stepped out our back door onto the patio, walked quietly up to the bird feeders, and very gently plucked a small House Finch from one of the perches. She offered no resistance, save for a surprised squawk and a feeble twitch in my hand—an attempt, no doubt, to escape, which might have succeeded had she been stronger. But this was a sick bird. Eyes crusted closed, the bird hadn’t seen me coming, and in her weakened condition she was barely able to struggle. This was a classic case of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis—House Finch eye disease.

Holding her safely and securely in what’s known as a bander’s grip—back against my palm, hand cupped around her wings, tail, and feet, index and middle finger on either side of her neck with her head peeking out between them—I carried her into the house and placed her in a small carrier. To keep her quiet and relaxed, I draped a cover over it, ensuring that enough air flowed in to allow her to breathe easily. Then I called Judy Pasko, a wildlife rehabber I know in Cummington, and we were off.

An hour later I was on my way back home, the little finch in Judy’s care. For me, it was all over but the waiting. Judy would do everything she could, but the bird’s condition wasn’t good: the disease was advanced, and she was very weak. The next 24 hours were critical. If she made it through a full day of treatment, she’d have a decent chance to survive.

First spotted by Project FeederWatch participants in the Washington, D.C. area early in 1994, House Finch eye disease spread like wildfire all along the Eastern Seaboard. Co-sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, FeederWatch is a citizen science project that gets ordinary people involved in monitoring the birds that visit their yards and reporting what they see. Sightings are collected in a central database, which scientists and conservationists can use to look at population trends, migration timing, appearance of specific species… if there’s a question they can ask, this massive data set—submitted by thousands of regular people who just love birds—can help them get at an answer. In February of 1994, FeederWatchers began reporting House Finches with red, crusty, swollen eyes. But what was it? Where did it come from? And how did it spread?

The first two were easy to answer: Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is an illness caused by the parasitic bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum, which jumped species from infected poultry. The third was a little harder; two decades after its emergence in House Finches, the jury’s still out. Most likely, the pathogen passes from one bird to another through contact with infected droppings or the hallmark eye secretions, but no one’s entirely sure. What’s certain is that it does spread, and easily: in addition to House Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, American Goldfinches, and Purple Finches have all succumbed to it. And in 2002, the disease crossed the Rockies and began racing through the western U.S., infecting House Finches all the way to the Pacific Coast. My little bird was in good company.

And she was also in good hands. Judy called the next day with an update: the finch was still with us, and seemed a little stronger after her first course of medicine. She wasn’t out of the woods yet, but things were looking up. Now she faced a few weeks of treatment, rest, and acclimation to the cooler weather heralding winter’s approach. If all went well, in about three weeks she’d be ready to be released. I’m not usually given to prayer, but I asked for Mother Nature’s intercession, and hoped that She might convey this little bird back to health.

Sometimes prayers are answered. This morning, Judy drove the finch back home. The bird she released in our yard was feisty, energetic, and possessed of all the vitality that this disease had drained from her—the fire of life burning deep and strong within her feathered breast. She flew to the top of the tallest tree, and was immediately joined by another of her kin. The two finches sat in each other’s company, perhaps enjoying their reunion, and then she took flight again, descending into the yard. She landed in a nearby Ash and, head tilted in our direction, regarded us—we two who had helped her back to life. I looked into her eye, and the full force of connection hit me—a freight train carried on gossamer wings. Weeks before, I had reached out my hand and delivered her into the hands of another who would save her. And here she was, healthy, beautiful, and free.

It doesn’t always end this way. There have been others who’ve been less fortunate, who we’ve tried to help and who were already too far gone. But as Judy said this morning, you do what you can, even if doesn’t change the outcome. If nothing else, at least they knew safety, comfort, and love before they passed.

My family and I took a trip to California this past April, and on a beach in Monterey we found a female Surf Scoter in clear distress. We wrapped her in my jacket and brought her an hour away to a wildlife rescue center—gaunt, bedraggled, and barely holding on. She died during the night. Why had we found her, my son wondered, if we couldn’t save her? In the end, what good did we do?

Sometimes, it seems pointless. If the bird’s going to die anyway, why bother? The answer is simple: because we can. Because we should. Because all life has equal value, and must be treated with respect, with reverence, and with love. And because, regardless of outcome, there’s nobility in the attempt.

And once in a while, in the face of uncertainty and through great care, a life on the edge comes back to us. In that moment, hope is reborn, life is proven stronger than death, and we are given the gift of connection to all that is, was, and will ever be. And for a time, at least, the world is good.

 

To learn more about Judy Pasko and to support her work, you can check out her website, Cummington Wildlife Inc.

You can get more info about House Finch eye disease through the Project FeederWatch website here

… and here

… the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds website here

here

… and here.

And you can learn more about Project FeederWatch here.

 

 

 

Get Your Buzz On For Birds

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

The birds we love are in trouble, and they need our help. Many are declining, some of them sharply: Following the 2014 State of the Birds report, about a third of the United States’ 800 or so birds—233 species—were placed on a watch list, indicating an urgent need for protection. Some, like the Whopping Crane, Piping Plover, Spotted Owl, California Condor, and Golden-cheeked Warbler, are already threatened or endangered; the rest are riding the edge. A separate list tallies another 33 common birds around the country that are also in steep decline, having lost at least half their habitat in the last 50 years. They range across a variety of habitats, from grasslands and fields to shorelines and forests, and include birds familiar to most of us—Chimney Swift, Common Grackle, Herring Gull, Eastern Meadowlark, and Snowy Owl among them. The threats they face are as varied as the birds threatened by them. You’ve heard the litany, I’m sure: habitat loss, restricted range, water and air pollution, introduction of invasive species, human recreation in nesting areas, loss of food sources, energy development, climate change… it’s a long and overwhelming list. What’s a concerned birder to do? Where do you even begin?

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls

You can start by settling down with a good cup of coffee. That’s right: coffee. You know, the stuff that gets you moving early enough to catch a spring morning’s first light, snaps you awake after a long night of owling, or cuts the chill of the winter coast. Yes, we birders have occasion to drink a lot of coffee—and while we have different preferences for its consumption (I’ll take mine in a mug of cocoa, thank you), we share a host of reasons to reach for our favorite caffeinated decoction. But the best reason of all is one that many people don’t associate with coffee, and it’s a concern that has only recently been possible to address in this context: Saving birds.

Thanks to increased environmental awareness and sincere concern for the health of the land and the wildlife and people that depend on it, coffee has become a medium for both social and economic justice and environmental stewardship—addressing a host of issues like fair trade, habitat protection, the health of coffee growers and workers, soil and water quality, sustainability, preservation of native flora and fauna, economic equality and opportunity… and, by the way, the quality of the coffee itself. To understand why this is possible (and how a better cup of coffee can actually save the birds we cherish), we have to delve a little bit into the history of coffee.

Shadecoffee

Shade-grown coffee

Coffee originated in the forests of Ethiopia, and made it to our shores in the holds of European ships bound for the New World. Europeans grew the plants in wide-open, sunny plantations, but native Mesoamericans (the Maya, for example), discovered that coffee thrived under the same conditions as did the cacao they’d historically grown—namely, in the shade of native trees. At its most basic, this meant planting coffee shrubs under the existing canopy or, at most, replacing a small number of trees with species that produced other products like fruit and timber. For hundreds of years, this type of shade-grown coffee was the rule, and it’s incredibly compatible with wildlife.

Sun coffee

Sun coffee

In 1970, though, everything changed. That year, Brazilian coffee farmers discovered coffee leaf rust—a fungal blight that thrives in shade. It had already ravaged Asian coffee farms, so panicked farmers, fearing for their livelihoods, clear-cut plantations and began growing coffee in full sunlight, packed together in neat rows. Not only did this remove critical habitat for a variety of wildlife (including both resident and migratory birds), it also required the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers, which contaminated both soil and water, and exposed workers to a cocktail of toxins. This unfortunate legacy carries on today, with devastating consequences. Growing coffee in full sun wreaks havoc with every link in the ecosystem. Awash in toxic chemicals and devoid of virtually all plant and animal life, modern sun coffee plantations are essentially biological wastelands.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Not so with traditional shade-grown coffee farms. Like desert oases, such plantations are ablaze with life, containing within them a biological richness and diversity second only to undisturbed forest. At a time when more and more rainforest is razed to the ground, these outposts are proving critical to the survival of the region’s wild creatures. And among them are many of the migratory birds whose regular visits delight and inspire us: orioles and tanagers, warblers and vireos, and all those others without which our northern spring would be colorless and silent. All told, 42 species of the songbirds we know and love overwinter in heavily shaded coffee plantations—22 of which are declining significantly.

So, coffee can make a difference—but it has to be the right kind of coffee. The increased desire among coffee drinkers for a more sustainable cup has led to a dizzying array of labels all claiming different things: organic, fair trade, shade-grown, Rainforest Alliance, Bird Friendly, UTZ… identifying peeps or fall warblers is easier than deciphering this plethora of certifications, and I won’t attempt to unravel it all here (that’s what the links are for). For bird lovers, though, the choice is relatively simple.

bird-friendly-logoFirst, not all shade-grown coffee is created equal. In many cases, “shade-grown” is a feel-good buzzword. Yes, the beans are grown in the shade, but that doesn’t necessarily mean native forest canopy. Often, coffee shrubs are planted in the shade of non-native species, or in a habitat that’s only minimally diverse—neither of which does much for wintering birds. If you’re concerned about helping to preserve migratory bird habitat, the Bird Friendly certification is your best friend. Developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, the Bird Friendly certification is the only surefire way to know that the coffee you’re purchasing is, in fact, grown in a way that’s truly bird-friendly. It’s the strongest of certifications, the platinum standard. Bird Friendly coffee meets USDA organic and fair-trade standards, and is grown in the shade of the native forest canopy, under a diverse mix of trees and foliage. Not only does this protect critical migratory bird habitat, it results in a better tasting coffee, as beans grown under such shady conditions take longer to mature and develop more complex flavors. In addition, it preserves the health of the ecosystem and the coffee plantation’s workers, as they’re not exposed to the dangerous mix of chemicals commonly used by non-organic coffee growers. Says Bridget Stutchbury, veteran migratory bird researcher at Toronto’s York University,

“Buying Bird-Friendly coffee is one of the best ways you can do your part to preserve wintering habitat for our migratory songbirds.”

The problem is that Bird Friendly coffee can be hard to find in brick-and-mortar stores (though it’s relatively easy to order online). Compounding the issue, only about 10 percent of bird-friendly beans carry the Bird Friendly label. Bird Friendly is not as well-known a designation as some of the others, and many Bird Friendly certified retailers opt for more recognizable, yet less stringent, labels. Some growers also forego certification altogether, though they may grow their coffee in identical conditions to a certified plantation. Often, small retailers or boutique coffeehouses develop personal relationships with growers, and work very hard to ensure the coffee they buy is grown sustainably, with minimal impact to the environment—again, Bird Friendly in everything but name. Some retailers also include a few Bird Friendly coffees alongside other, non-certified coffees—requiring the buyer to carefully review all the available offerings. At this point, the only 100 percent Bird Friendly brand is Birds & Beans, though several other retailers have one or two in their line—and more, it seems, are coming.

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole

But how much difference can changing your coffee really make? Consider this: in the United States alone, there are more than 46 million birders. That’s 46 million of us who exist, in part, to get out and spend time with birds—often with the assistance of a little caffeine. If every one of us committed to drinking certified Bird Friendly coffee, we could change the dynamic overnight. And if you think our voices aren’t loud enough, or don’t carry enough weight, ask the people of Cape May, NJ. The first birders to venture there made a point of letting every business, restaurant, hotel, coffee shop, gas station—in short, every place they spent money (and birders spend a lot of money)—know that they were there for the birds, and would return every year the birds came back. That city exists because of us. We changed Cape May’s economic equation—and by doing so, ensured the protection of a critical migratory flyway. There are other stories: Texas’ lower Rio Grande Valley, the Great Florida Birding Trail, and countless locations throughout Central and South America. These places all learned that birders will visit them—and spend money in their communities—as long as there are birds to see. Compared to that, changing the coffee business should be easy.

The drive for sustainability is already underway: that Bird Friendly coffee even exists is proof of that. But it’s happening on a grander scale as well. Just this year, Starbucks reached a significant milestone: 99 percent of its coffee is now sourced through the Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) Practices program. Developed in partnership with Conservation International and verified by SCS Global Services (a neutral, independent third party), CAFE Practices is a set of sustainability standards that covers four main areas: quality, economic accountability, social responsibility, and environmental leadership. The goal? Ensure that farmers and workers are fairly compensated and have safe, fair, and humane working and living conditions; and ensure that growers practice measures to manage waste, protect water quality, conserve resources, reduce chemicals, and preserve biodiversity. Call me crazy, but the largest coffee retailer in the world driving towards 100 percent sustainability seems like a pretty big deal. A few million birders making some noise might just push them to adopt the Bird Friendly standard.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Who knows where this will all lead. The signs, to me, are positive and encouraging. This is easy, something we can all do. It’s an empowering first step, and clear evidence that in a world of seemingly insurmountable problems, each of us can make a difference. For me, amidst all the darkness and news of destruction, it’s no small thing to see hope in a cup of coffee.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, All About Birds, has a great explanation of the various types of coffee certification here.

You can also read about how bird-friendly coffee supports winter habitat at All About Birds here

… and about Allegro’s entre into the world of Bird Friendly coffee here.

Coffee & Conservation also has an excellent analysis here….

… and a map of recommended roasters here.

Fresh Cup Magazine has an article about the most bird-friendly coffee here

… and another article about the different certifications for coffee here.

EthicalCoffee.net has a good discussion about Bird Friendly coffee here.

The Rainforest Alliance has a description of its environmental standards (set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network) here.

And you can learn about the Sustainable Agriculture Network here.

You can get more information about Starbucks’ CAFE Practices at Coffee & Conservation

Daily Coffee News

… and at Starbucks’ own site here.

There’s also info about the CAFE Practices program at Conservation International’s blog here.

And the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a lot of great resources related to Bird Friendly coffee here.

Of Sagebrush And Grouse

Male Greater Sage-Grouse on a lek in Utah. © Mia McPherson

Male Greater Sage-Grouse on a lek in Utah. © Mia McPherson, On The Wing Photography

When thinking of dramatic, exciting birds—in North America, at least—most of us would probably turn to one of the raptors—the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, or Snowy Owl, perhaps—or the big wading birds like herons and egrets. Those familiar with the coast might picture a seabird or diver—maybe the Atlantic Puffin or Pacific Loon. And who could argue with a Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, or Green Jay? Though we lack the variety of Central and South America’s stunning tropical birds, there are still many that place high in the ranks of the flashy and magnetic. With such diversity to choose from, the Greater Sage-Grouse would be lucky to make the list: Decked in mottled gray-brown and virtually invisible nine months of the year, it’s exactly the opposite of dramatic. Understated and secretive (while not breeding, at least) and roughly the size of a chicken, this bird is hardly a firebrand to rally around. And yet the Greater Sage-Grouse is at the heart not just of this century’s greatest land preservation effort, but the largest single-species conservation endeavor in history.

The story unfolds in the Sagebrush Sea, a landscape stretching across 165 million acres—260,000 square miles—and 14 western states. Fragmented by development, energy production, and agriculture, it’s the last remnant of a vast sagebrush prairie that once ran unbroken from the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming to the Pacific coast’s Cascade Range. A multitude of creatures seek out the sheltering confines of the Sagebrush Sea, depending on it for sustenance and survival. Alongside the Sage-Grouse are pronghorn antelope, Brewer’s and Sage Sparrows, pygmy rabbits, mule deer, sagebrush lizards, Long-billed Curlews, elk, Horned Larks, jackrabbits, Marbled Godwits, Sage Thrashers, and sagebrush voles. Red-tailed Hawks, Short-eared Owls, and Golden Eagles hunt for prey over the steppe. In all, more than 350 species—many found nowhere else—share the Sage-Grouse’s home.

Or what’s left of it. Two-hundred years of settlement, farming, ranching, mining, urban development, and fossil-fuel extraction left the Sagebrush Sea devastated, half of its once-great sprawl lost to humanity’s juggernaut. And Sage-Grouse numbers have plummeted: from the bird’s historical population of perhaps 16 million, a scant few hundred thousand remain—and they’re perched uncomfortably close to extinction. Without direct, aggressive, and rapid action, they could slip beyond hope of recovery.

Fearing the worst, the federal government stepped in: in 2010, the US Fish & Wildlife Service determined that the plight of the Sage-Grouse made it a prime candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act—a move first proposed in 2006. However, it hasn’t yet listed the bird.

Yet.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has until the end of this September to make the call—and there are a lot of people on both sides of the fence collectively holding their breath. On one hand, listing the Greater Sage-Grouse could cost five billion dollars in potential lost economic output across the 11 western states where the bird still roams. On the other, doing nothing will almost certainly drive the birds to extinction. Regardless of where people come down on the issue, the question on everyone’s mind is: can we strike a balance between the extremes? Can we keep the West open and still save the grouse?

Sparring male Greater Sage-Grouse. © Mia McPherson, On The Wing Photography

Sparring male Greater Sage-Grouse. © Mia McPherson, On The Wing Photography

It’s a question of considerable interest to the states that harbor the grouse, and they’re leading the way towards an answer. Earlier this month, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed an agreement with the USDA that pledges cooperation between federal, state, and local governments in efforts to protect the birds; in May, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado issued an executive order directing state agencies to take direct actions to conserve both the birds and the sagelands on which they depend; and the state of Wyoming established a Sage-Grouse conservation policy as far back as 2008, under then-governor Dave Freudenthal (since updated by Freudenthal’s successor, Governor Matt Mead). Other states are beginning to follow suit, and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has also recently updated its original conservation plan with a new plan that seems to more effectively balance the needs of grouse and people, protecting critical habitat while allowing for recreational, agricultural, and industrial activities vital to the western economy within less important or sensitive areas—a move applauded by several environmental groups as the best chance to save the birds, as it addresses many of the most serious threats to the grouse while not completely restricting human use of the land.

Efforts like these are creating alliances among groups with typically divergent interests: elected officials, ranchers, environmentalists, and representatives from local, state, and federal agencies; fossil fuel and mining companies; and conservation organizations like National Audubon. This multi-disciplinary approach seems to be the most effective way to ensure the broadest possible support for the plan, resulting ideally in the greatest measure of protection for the birds.

Perhaps the best example is the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). Launched in 2010 by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the SGI unities ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses in a partnership with a singular vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. Employing the power of the Farm Bill, the NRCS works to fund and certify voluntary conservation projects across all 11 Sage-Grouse states. To date, more than 1,100 ranches have signed on, and together they’ve restored and protected 4.4 million acres of prime sagebrush habitat vital to the survival of the birds.

It’s a partnership that benefits more than just the grouse. Sage-Grouse are a classic umbrella species: by protecting the land they depend on, you also protect everything else that relies on the sagebrush for survival—all 350 species that fall under the Sage-Grouse’s umbrella. The bird, the land, and the abundance of wildlife within are linked intimately in a precarious dance along the edge of survival. And far from mere observers, we too are partners in the dance: The ranchers whose livelihoods depend on the sagebrush landscape are also at risk, as are we who partake of the fruits of their labor. Protecting and improving land for the grouse provides better, more nutritious forage and enhances the health and happiness of the animals pastured on it—both safeguarding the vitality and stability of a critical resource and fulfilling a moral obligation to care for the animals we use.

It is perhaps this last thought that resonates the loudest. Why is it important to save the Sage-Grouse? Because we can, and are thus morally bound to do so. Because it, like all other species, has the right to exist, and we do not have the right to deny it that. And because honoring and preserving the grouse would show the true measure of our character, our humanity, and our commitment to value more than just human life. The Sage-Grouse is a part of the great biologic system of this planet, to which all other species—ourselves included—belong. If we lose the grouse, we lose a part of ourselves as well: as goes the bird, so go us.

Ultimately, preserving the Sagebrush Sea is about more than the grouse. It’s about saving an entire interconnected ecosystem of which we are also a part. And it’s about shifting our place on this Earth and our role here—from lords and consumers to stewards and conservers, from devouring to renewing, and from bringers of death to guardians of life.

Female Greater Sage-Grouse at sunrise. © Mia McPherson

Female Greater Sage-Grouse at sunrise. © Mia McPherson, On The Wing Photography

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has done a wonderful job documenting the plight of the Sage-Grouse, and you can read about it here.

There’s also an excellent article about Sage-Grouse on National Geographic’s website here.

You can read about the Bureau of Land Management’s Sage-Grouse plan here.

And you can learn more about the Sage-Grouse Initiative—including success stories from several member ranches—at the Sage-Grouse Initiative.

Mia McPherson was kind enough to donate her beautiful images of the Sage-Grouse. You can view more of her work here.

Lamentation For A Pigeon

Male Passenger Pigeon by Tim Hough

Male Passenger Pigeon by Tim Hough

 

“Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons. Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.” — Aldo Leopold

This weekend, while many were reveling in summer’s last hurrah and others were bemoaning the return of school and an end to carefree days, the world attended a solemn anniversary. You may have missed it, amidst the Labor Day frivolity and merriment, but September 1st marked the centenary of a great demise: on that day in 1914—with the death of Martha, last of her kind—the Passenger Pigeon slipped into extinction.

Of course, it didn’t do so on its own. Like others before it—the Giant Moa, the Dodo, the Great Auk—the Passenger Pigeon vanished through the actions of man, a victim of thoughtless exploitation and callous indifference. At its height, it was North America’s—and perhaps the planet’s—dominant bird: five billion strong, an avian press of life not seen before or since, an unstoppable force of nature lit by primordial fire. Throughout the 19th century, stories abounded of pigeon flocks millions strong, migrating in living clouds that darkened the skies for hours, feathered floods that stunned observers and silenced conversation under thunderous wings.

In Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold wrote:

“The pigeon was a biological storm. He was the lightning that played between two opposing potentials of intolerable intensity: the fat of the land and the oxygen of the air. Yearly the feathered tempest roared up the laden fruits of forest and prairie, burning them in a traveling blast of life.”

Eastern Meadowlark by Aidan Griffiths

It seemed impossible that anything so abundant could ever disappear. And yet by 1914, they were gone. Mere decades after their heyday, Passenger Pigeons fell from billions to one: Martha, a female born and raised in captivity—an oddity for humans to gawk at, and a sad reminder of the multitude that was, destined to follow the rest of her kind into the inevitable void.

One hundred years later, we mourn the passing of this iconic bird, and lament its fate at the hands of people who burned its homes and hunted it out of existence, blind to the idea that their actions could lead to its undoing. It’s a cautionary tale that bears repeating, for there are many others today riding the knife-edge of oblivion: Atlantic Puffins, Piping Plovers, Red Knots, Eastern Meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, American Kestrels, Arctic and Least Terns—all these birds, and more besides, risk sharing the pigeon’s fate.

And yet there are lights in the darkness, small reasons to hope. There are birds that we’ve grasped from the plunge. When I was growing up, Eastern Bluebirds and Bald Eagles were creatures of myth, spoken of in reverent tones but rarely seen. Now, bluebirds grace our yard every year, and eagles have reclaimed the sky. Peregrine Falcons and Ospreys have rebounded from DDT’s pernicious assault, and even the California Condor is staging a comeback. Though still at risk, the resurgence of these birds is testament to the power of the human spirit and the strength of our collective will. Yes, we can drive species to extinction, but we can also bring them back from the brink.

Peregrine Falcon

So let us celebrate the Passenger Pigeon and the life that was. Let us honor the lost, laud those we’ve saved, and fight to preserve all we have left. Let us recognize that we have the power to destroy, but let us also remember that we have the capacity to restore. And above all, let us ensure that Martha and her kin did not die in vain, that we redress our unfortunate mistake, and that, one hundred years from now, we aren’t marking another dire anniversary.

Russel McLendon wrote about the Passenger Pigeon for Mother Nature Network, and you can find his posts below:

100 years later, the passenger pigeon still haunts us
Ode to Martha, the last passenger pigeon

National Public Radio’s The Two-Way also featured a show about the birds, which you can find here.

And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a piece about the Passenger Pigeon here.