What a gorgeous mural! I saw Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon earlier this month while walking in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio on my way to the public library.
Part of the ArtWorks Cincinnati project, the mural is a reproduction of a piece by John A. Ruthven. In the mural, Martha and her flock of passenger pigeons fly over the historic Bird Run at the Cincinnati Zoo.
This isn’t only a beautiful mural; Martha was the last passenger pigeon. She was 29 years old when she died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.
What is ArtWorks Cincy?
Thanks to ArtWorks Cincinnati, neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati and in nearby cities have seen their bare walls transform into impressive murals.
So far, youth apprentices and local artists have created 132 public murals in 44 Cincinnati neighborhoods.
The goal of the project is to have a mural painted in every one of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.
I’ve enjoyed walking through Cincinnati neighborhoods to see the murals; one of my favorites is the Roots of Vision mural in Mt. Adams.
Since I’m a history buff, I did some research into the extinction of the passenger pigeon. If you’re interested, read on.
What Happened to the Passenger Pigeon?
Once the most numerous bird species in North America and some have said the world, the passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction.
In the 1800’s, people in the United States would report how the passenger pigeons would travel in low-flying flocks, thousands of birds flying over towns, blocking out the sun, taking over forests.
The birds were noisy, and devoured not only acorns and beechnuts, but crops, which didn’t endear them to farmers.
But the birds were tasty and seen as a source of protein. And so they were hunted for food.
The technology of the telegraph and the railroad helped lead to the demise of the passenger pigeon. When flocks of birds were discovered, the telegraph relayed the news to hunters and trappers.
Trains could relatively quickly transport people to the birds. Birds were shot, trapped, even poisoned by whiskey-soaked corn.
The dead birds were transported in barrels, stuffed into railcars, and sent to large cities like Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Boston where they were sold.
Some hunters used fire to destroy nesting grounds of the passenger pigeon, contributing to loss of habitat. Along with the hunting and killing, the future of the passenger pigeon was destined.