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Martha, the Passenger Pigeon, passed away on September 1, 1914, in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was believed to be the last living individual of her species after two male companions had died in the same zoo in 1910. Martha was a celebrity at the zoo, attracting long lines of visitors. When she was found dead on the floor of her cage that afternoon, she was immediately frozen into a 300-pound block of ice and shipped by fast train to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where her body was carefully preserved as a taxidermy mount and an anatomical specimen. The Passenger Pigeon had been the most abundant species of bird in North America only decades earlier. Its extinction helped to inspire our modern conservation ethic. 

The specimen made from Martha’s remains is one of the most treasured possessions of the Smithsonian Institution.  In recognition of the centenary of her death, we have placed Martha back on exhibit on the ground floor of the museum.  The exhibit, titled Once There Were Billions, also features other iconic extinct North American birds as well as books about them, and runs from June 2014 to September 2015.  The exhibit and its webpage, created in collaboration with Smithsonian Libraries, provide more information about the birds and related special programming this year:

Description Ectopistes migratorius, collected September 1, 1914.
Author Donald E. Hurlbert, 6/23/2014
Copyright This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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