State Museum to mark centennial of passenger pigeon extinction

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State Museum to mark centennial of passenger pigeon extinction

Passenger pigeon specimen
Joel Sartore | Courtesy photo
Passenger pigeon specimen

The University of Nebraska State Museum will hold a “Passenger Pigeon Family Fold-a-Thon” event as part of a worldwide initiative of the “The Lost Bird Project,” bringing awareness to the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

The event will be 9:30-11:30 a.m. Sept. 13 at Morrill Hall, south of 14th and Vine streets on UNL’s City Campus, with free admission to the museum all day.

As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the State Museum was selected to receive origami sheets for the fold-a-thon from the Lost Bird Project. In remembrance of the passenger pigeon, the museum will fold origami pigeons to recreate a great flock symbolizing those of more than 100 years ago. Volunteers will be available to help fold the origami birds, visitors will be encouraged to add their bird to the national bird count at

The passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, was once the most common bird in the United States and the most abundant species of bird on Earth, numbering in the billions. A report from 1866 of a single flock was one mile wide and 300 miles long, took 14 hours to pass by, and may have consisted of 3.5 billion birds. Passenger pigeons may have accounted for about 25 percent of all the birds in North America.

“Martha,” the last bird of the species, died at age 29 at the Cincinnati Zoo on Sept. 1, 1914. Upon her death, Martha was frozen into a 300-pound block of ice and shipped by train to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to be preserved.

The University of Nebraska State Museum will display a passenger pigeon from its collection in a temporary exhibit in Morrill Hall as part of the centennial observatoin. The specimen, obtained in 1936, is maintained in the museum’s zoology research collection on the UNL campus. The exhibit pays tribute to “Martha” and provides further information about how the passenger pigeon extinction occurred, including the implications for extinction of other species. Finished birds from the fold-a-thon will be hung in Morrill Hall as part of the exhibit. For more information on the exhibit, go to

For further information, go to or call 402-472-2642.

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