And if we can - should we?
I remember, many years ago, seeing the last passenger pigeon on display at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. Her name was Martha (named after Martha Washington, George Washington's wife). She died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. They couldn't locate a male bird for her.
The Smithsonian Magazine website (link above) goes on to tell the story of how this species became extinct. 101 years before the last one died, this happened:
"In 1813, ornithologist John James Audubon was riding across the state of Kentucky when the sky was darkened by an enormous flock of passenger pigeons. The cloud of birds continued past all day. He estimated that there were as many as 1 billion pigeons in the flock; other scientists have calculated that the species once constituted 25 to 40 percent of all birds in the U.S."There were billions of them once, and maybe there can be again - but perhaps not. But first, a little about this native American bird.
Larger than a mourning dove, the stuffed passenger pigeons we are left with remind me of a large, kind of strange robinish dove. They bred in large colonies, with up to 100 nests in a single tree, we are told. Their colonies could stretch over hundreds of miles. They could fly at over 60 mph, and had a migratory habit.
They, unfortunately, were good, cheap eating, and an entire pigeon canning industry was built up around them. If you had to hunt one yourself today, assuming there were any to hunt, you could even find a recipe online.
I've read (and I don't know if it was true) that before the white man came to the North American continent, their numbers weren't as large. Native Americans were one of their predators, and thanks to their decrease in population (disease and war) at the hands of the European immigrants, the population of the passenger pigeon (yes, I have to say it) soared.