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“When settlers arrived in North America, the most abundant bird species on the continent was the passenger pigeon. The grayish bird with an iridescent bronze neck was about a foot-and-a-half long and resembled, according to historian and elegist Joel Greenberg, “a mourning dove on steroids.” There were likely between 3 and 5 billion of them on the continent, and the largest flocks congregated primarily east of the Rocky Mountains. Witnessing a passenger-pigeon migration over the Ohio River in 1813, naturalist John James Audubon marveled that “the light of noonday was obscured as by an eclipse” for three days straight.
Passenger pigeons often behaved as an agricultural pest: their vast nesting colonies bent trees out of shape, and they often blanketed the forest floor with a thick layer of excrement—enough to decimate the understorey. The birds were also seen as valuable for their meat and feathers. As a result, they were shot and trapped en masse.
Overhunting, combined with catastrophic habitat loss due to forest fragmentation, turned the passenger pigeon into a cautionary tale for conservationists. The population plummeted from billions to zero within a century. On September 1, 1914, a passenger pigeon named Martha, who was bred in captivity, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was the last known living passenger pigeon, and she was dutifully transported to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in an enormous block of ice. She remains there on display to this day.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."
"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."
"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"
"Two new documentaries take on Billy McFarland and his disastrous music festival... the secret villain of this story all along: the subtle menace of social media marketing."
"Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up. "It's definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.""
"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "
"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."
"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."
"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."
"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."
"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."
"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"