Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/19

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xi
Introduction

in Michigan was undoubtedly the last large migration, but the pigeons continued to nest infrequently in Michigan and the North for several years after that, and until as late as 1886 they were trapped for market or for trap-shooting. Therefore the pigeons did not become extinct in a day; nor did one tremendous catastrophe wipe them from the face of the earth. They gradually became fewer and existed for twenty years or more after the date set as that of the final extermination.

At one time the wild pigeons covered the entire north from the Gaspé Peninsula to the Red River of the North. Separate nestings and flights were of regular yearly occurrence over this vast eastern and northern expanse. Gradually civilization, molestation and warfare drove them from the Atlantic seaboard west, until Michigan was their last grand rendezvous, in which region their mighty hosts congregated for the final grand nesting in 1878. As late as 1845 they were quite numerous on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec, but disappeared from there about that time.

The habits of the birds were such that they could not thrive singly nor in small bodies, but were dependent upon one another, and vast communities were necessary to their very existence, while an enormous quantity of food was necessary for their sustenance. The cutting off of the forests and food supply interfered with their plan of existence and drove them into new localities,