Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/221

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The Passenger Pigeon

was fortunate enough to have experience with it living or dead. Yet it was not exempt from the oppression of its human foe, who has been instrumental, through interference with the breeding and feeding grounds and through a continued persecution and ruthless slaughter for the market, in reducing the species almost beyond the hope of salvation.

The Passenger Pigeon, the species under observation, was first described under the genus Columba, or type pigeons, but subsequently Swainson separated it from these and placed it under the genus Ectopistes because of the greater length of wing and tail.

Generically named Ectopistes, meaning moving about or wandering, and specifically named Migratoria, meaning migratory, we have a technical name implying not only a species of migrating annually to and from their breeding ground, but one given to moving about from season to season, selecting the most congenial environment for both breeding and feeding.

. . . With all the knowledge we have possessed of the unestimable multitudes which existed during the early part of the last century, and with their decline, begun and noted generally in the later sixties and early seventies, we still find that no steps whatever were taken to prevent their possible depletion, and few records of any value are made of the continuance or speed of this decrease; and not until the last decade of the century do we awake to the fact that the pigeons are gone be-