On Nature: Remembering the Passenger Pigeon

On Nature: David Voigts

The last Passenger Pigeon died over 100 years ago. I would like to reflect on its passing with the eloquent words of Aldo Leopold, On a Monument to the Pigeon, Sand County Almanac, 1949.

“There will always be passenger pigeons in book and in museums, but these are effigies and images, dead to all hardships and to all delights. Book-pigeons cannot dive out of a cloud to make the deer run for cover, or clap their wings in thunderous applause of mast-laden woods. Book-pigeons cannot breakfast on new-mown wheat in Minnesota, and dine on blueberries in Canada. They know no urge of seasons; they feel no kiss of sun, no lash of wind and weather. They live forever by not living at all.”

Leopold went on to bring us up to his current time. “We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise… These things, I say should have come to us. I fear they have not come to many.”

I think it is good to remember these words in this time when many species are facing extinction from man’s activities, including the threat of climate change.

David Voigts is a retired ecologist and the current Conservation Chair for the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society. He is a Tama County native, graduating from Dinsdale High School, and lives in rural Jesup on his wife’s family farm.