Ectopistes migratorius 

The Passenger Pigeon




          The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) could be found nesting in trees along streams.  Their nests consisted of a crude tangle of twigs and moss usually about six to seven inches in diameter.  The males would bring all the nesting materials one piece at a time to the females who did the construction.  The nests were frequently flimsy enough to see the egg through the bottom.  Most nests were placed on limbs right next to the trunk of the tree.  Trees often had multiple nests sometimes as many as a 100 nests in a single tree.  Large limbs and even trees would occasionally collapse under the weight of the flocks.  Under the tree, dung would build up so much that it would kill the surrounding vegetation around the tree and sometimes even the tree itself.  The passenger pigeon roosted by the hundreds of thousands for protection against predators




          When it was time for the males to court the females they would press themselves up against the females in a more tactile, less visual pattern then most birds.  This allowed for reduced interference from all of the neighboring birds.  Their calls were also louder and more clamorous than the usual soft cooing of most pigeons this was an adaptation that permitted individuals to be heard above the rest of the breeding colony. 


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

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



          The passenger pigeon had very small clutches, always one egg per pair of birds.  The egg was pure white, elongate, and elliptical that had a slight gloss, but was not as “polished” as the domestic pigeon’s egg.  Both the male and female would take turns incubating the egg after it was laid.  The parents would take turns caring for the egg and feeding.  The switch was highly synchronized throughout the colony.  There would be a group movement usually between nine and ten in the morning and then again between two and three in the afternoon.  This was an adaptation against many predators.  A mass movement would often cause their predators to become confused.  After about 14 days the egg would hatch.  The altrical chick sometimes called a squab would be cared for by its parents for as many as five weeks.  The parents would feed the young a kind of milk, that was secreted from their crops (both the male and female produce the milk), as well as regurgitated food.  Their small clutch size was a reflection of their diet; because of its low nutritional value they were not able to produce high quality milk in large enough amounts to feed more than one squab at a time.  The passenger pigeon was considered to be an r-strategy species, which means that that they increase their fecundity by breeding several time a season. 


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