Ectopistes migratorius 

The Passenger Pigeon



Human Uses

          Humans used the passenger pigeon in many different ways.  It was an important food source; they served it fresh, smoked, salted, pickled and as jerk.  They used its fat in the kitchen and its feathers for bedding.  Parts of the passenger pigeon were also used in some medicines back when almost everything was used for some medicinal purposes.  It was believed that their blood helped disorders in the eyes, coats of the stomach in powder form cured bloody fluxes, and that their dung mixed with Anodyne force helped to reduce headaches, pain in the side and stomach.  Professional passenger pigeon trappers and farmers also harvested these birds for money. 




Citation: Schorger, A. W. (1955). The passenger pigeon: Its natural history and extinction. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

A diagram of a typical trap used to capture the pigeons










          There were many different methods used for capturing passenger pigeons.  Some of these methods included the use of shotguns, long sticks for hitting birds out of their nests, collecting birds that had fallen naturally, felling entire trees, suffocation by the burning of sulfur or grass and shrubs underneath the nests, leaving alcohol-soaked grain and then gathering the intoxicated birds, netting and trapping.  Trapping was found to be the most effective harvesting method.  To trap the birds, grain or salt was used for bait.  Live pigeons that had their eyes sewn shut were tethered to a perch called a stool around the bait to help attract other birds (where the term “stool pigeon” came from).  Then a net that was attached to a frame was released and trapped the birds.  With this method up to 30 dozen pigeons could be trapped at one time.  The building of railroads boosted the pigeon trade immensely because birds could be killed in greater numbers and then shipped across the country. 


Next Page