The United States is hardly deficient in natural wonders without equal in the world: the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the California redwoods, the Everglades, and Yellowstone, to name only a few. But there is at least one incomparable American natural wonder that we have, alas, lost forever: the passenger pigeon.

To be sure, the individual birds, although handsome, were not particularly remarkable. They were about the size of a city pigeon, but with the long tail of a mourning dove instead of a fantail. The males sported a rosy red breast, fading to pink on the belly.

What made the passenger pigeon a wonder of the world was its incredible abundance and its habit of gathering in immense flocks when flying to its nesting areas. In 1831, John James Audubon, in his Ornithological Biography, remembered...


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