Passenger Pigeon

(redirected from Ectopistes)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

pigeon

pigeon, common name for members of the large family Columbidae, land birds, cosmopolitan in temperate and tropical regions, characterized by stout bodies, short necks, small heads, and thick, heavy plumage. The names dove and pigeon are used interchangeably, though the former generally refers to smaller members of the family.

All pigeons have soft swellings (ceres) at the base of the nostrils, feed their young with “pigeon's milk” regurgitated from the crops of the parents, and have specialized bills through which they can suck up water steadily, unlike other birds. They eat chiefly fruits and seeds. From ancient times, pigeons—especially homing pigeons, which are also used as racing birds—have been used for carrying messages. Although electronics has largely replaced them as messengers, they are still of experimental importance. It is thought that they may navigate by the sun. Monogamous and amorous, pigeons are known for their soft cooing calls.

The most common American wild pigeon is the small, gray-brown mourning dove Zenaidura macroura (sometimes called turtledove), similar to the once abundant passenger pigeon, which was slaughtered indiscriminately and became extinct in 1914. Other wild American species are the band-tailed, red-billed, and white-crowned pigeons, all of the genus Columba, and the reddish brown ground-doves (genus Columbina). The Australasian region has two thirds of the 289 species of pigeons, of which the fruit pigeons are the most colorful and the gouras, or crowned pigeons, the largest (to 33 in./84 cm). In Europe the turtledove, rock pigeon or dove, stock dove, and ringdove or wood pigeon are common. The rock dove, Columba livia, of temperate Europe and W Asia is the wild progenitor of the common street and domestic pigeons. Domesticated varieties developed by selective breeding include the fantail, with numerous erectile tail feathers; the Jacobin, with a hoodlike ruff; the tumbler, which turns backward somersaults in flight; the pouter, with an enormous crop; and the quarrelsome carrier, with rosettelike eyes and nose wattles.

Many species are valued as game birds; their close relationship to the Gallinae (e.g., pheasants and turkeys) is illustrated by the sand grouse, an Old World pigeon named for its resemblance to the grouse. In religion and art the dove symbolizes peace and gentleness, and in Greek mythology it was sacred to Aphrodite. The long-extinct dodo and Rodrigues solitaire were members of the pigeon family.

Pigeons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Columbiformes, family Columbidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Passenger Pigeon

 

(Ectopistes migratorius), an extinct bird of the family Columbidae. The passenger pigeon was about 30 cm long. The head and rump were grayish blue, the back dull brown, and the breast reddish fawn. Until the 1890’s the species was common in the hardwood forests of eastern North America from southern Canada to North Carolina; it wintered in the southern USA. Ruthless destruction of the enormous migrating flocks resulted in the total extinction of the passenger pigeon. The last mass nesting was in 1883, the last bird in the wild was observed in 1899, and the last living specimen died at the zoological garden in Cincinnati on Sept. 1,1914.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

passenger pigeon

hunted to extinction by 1914; vast numbers once darkened American skies during migratory flights. [Ecology: EB, VII: 786]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Among those never to be seen again are the New Zealand laughing owl (Sceloglaux albifacies), the Cuban macaw (Ara tricolor), and the once spectacularly abundant North American passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius).
The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius [=Columba migratoria]) covered the skies of the eastern United States--those of Kentucky, for example--with its migrations, even as late as the nineteenth century.
The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) numbered over three billion birds when Europeans arrived on North American shores, and contributed 25-40% of the biomass of the entire avian community of North America (Schorger 1955).
If I could have transported myself back in time, my hunger for ornithology would have been fed by flocks of Ectopistes migratorius--passenger pigeons--instead of starlings.
The classic example of extinction due to human ignorance of animal behavior concerns the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius).
Even abundant and widespread species have gone extinct (e.g., the passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius).