Long live the passenger pigeons: ‘martyrs’ of the avian world

by | Oct 1, 2019 | A&E, Lakeshore

 Jakob Gordon, Arts Reporter

A bird once described by Indigenous peoples as “Plentiful as the Sky” is a tragic example of the impact humans can have on the planet.

Humber College’s Lakeshore campus hosted the “Silencing a Feathered Tempest” event, which detailed the extinction of the passenger pigeon last Thursday. This was the final event in the five-month-long “Last of the Passenger Pigeon” series.

Glenn Coady, a bird watcher of more than 50 years, said humans hunting the passenger pigeon led to its extinction.

Glenn Coady, a bird watcher of more than 50 years, speaks at the “Silencing a Feathered Tempest” event. (Jakob Gordon)

The passenger pigeon’s peak population was estimated to be in the billions before humans wiped them out, the last one dying in captivity in 1914.

He described the passenger pigeons as “martyrs,” and it’s was a factor in the adoption of the Migratory Bird Treaty between Canada and the U.S., which protects migratory birds, their eggs, and nests from hunting.

The demise of the passenger pigeon shows that people have to be vested in the environment they live in.

“There’s no future for us if we don’t see ourselves within nature. We have to be a part of nature, not something that’s apart from it,” Coady said.

People can be more mindful of what they eat, use reusable mugs, and even take a look at how they commute to make a positive impact on the environment, he said.

“You’re never safe, that if the ecology and the pressures on you are strong enough, they can take out even the most robust species within,” he said, when asked about the conservation of other bird species that are endangered.

A painting of passenger pigeons. (Jakob Gordon)

Coady said Humber Students can get involved with local groups like Citizens Concerned with the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW) to be more involved in environmental sustainability and wildlife issues.

“There are many ways students can get involved in contributing to a sustainable lifestyle and community,” said Jennifer Bazar, a curator for the Humber Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre.

Students can also volunteer with the Interpretive Centre at the Humber Arboretum and join school clubs or volunteer with local groups to conduct do area cleanups.

“These events are a way to connect with the community and bring people together on certain topics, interests, and issues,” she said.

Nadine Finlay, another curator at the Humber Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre, said Humber students can learn more by visiting the Humber Sustainability website.

“The number one thing that Humber students can do it become more aware of their own lifestyles, and where they can identify areas, they can improve it,” she said.