As I walked along Wildcat Boulevard one morning, I was thinking about some of the old articles and notes I had read the day before. I had been cleaning out old files and came upon some articles on passenger pigeons.

As I walked along Wildcat Boulevard one morning, I was thinking about some of the old articles and notes I had read the day before. I had been cleaning out old files and came upon some articles on passenger pigeons.
 I cannot imagine how at one time there were so very many passenger pigeons(an estimated five billion) and now there are none. Killing off the American passenger pigeon may be the most glaring example of wild animal mistreatment ever recorded.
Some accounts are amazing. In 1813, John James Audubon witnessed a flight of passenger pigeons which passed for three entire days. Another early pioneer estimated that one flight had no less than two billion birds.
Locally, the large number of passenger pigeons in this area is well described in John Cowan’s Life in the Powell-Cyclone Community of McDonald County. Cowan wrote that the birds liked to roost in trees on the cliffs bordering Big Sugar Creek.
After multitudes of birds roosted in the trees, all the leaves were gone and any branch smaller than two inches in diameter was broken and on the ground. Hundreds of birds would roost in one tree.
When a huge flock flew over, the sky was darkened and the sound of the birds was as loud as a hundred freight trains coming at once. Their call was loud, harsh, and unmusical.
The locals did not waste powder to shot the birds. They would set tall, thin poles in the ground around a tree where the passenger pigeons roosted. At night, a man would go to each pole and start it swinging back and forth. Then someone would make a loud noise to flush the birds from their roost. The birds would explode into the air, hit the poles and fall to the ground, stunned or killed.
Passenger pigeon usually flew close to the ground. They could also be killed by throwing stones into a flock or knocking them to the ground with a long pole. Native Americans sometimes simply threw their war clubs into the lead birds of a flying flock and knocking them down.   
These birds were killed for food, fun, and profit. In 1736, cleaned carcasses were selling six for a penny in the American Colonies.
People were so greedy that they killed all the passenger pigeons. The last wild bird was spotted in 1900. The last one died in captivity in 1914. Its stuffed body is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. It looks like a large mourning dove, but more colorful.
Take a walk, use those signal lights, remember extinction is forever, watch for pedestrians, turn your lights on when it is getting dark, and see what you notice or think about while passing along Wildcat Boulevard.

Russell Hively writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.