“Audobon... came up with a figure of over 1 billion birds in a single flock that he watched near Louisville, Kentucky. A flock in Ontario thirty years later took several days to pass and was later estimated to contain nearly 4 billion individuals.”
The longest recorded nesting site was in central Wisconsin. In 1872 it formed an L shape, the long arm 75 miles long and the short one 50 miles long, with arm widths between six and eight miles.
The birds were destroyed with guns, clubs, and burning pots of sulphur.
“They were also trapped in the daytime in spring-loaded nets, drawn into range by a “stool pigeon,” a captured bird, often with its eyes sewn shut and tethered to a perch of “stool.”It was made to flap its wings to attract the attention of a passing flock, and it was quite usual for each trapper to catch upward of five hundred birds in each release of the net and maybe five thousand birds in a day’s work.
(Notes and quotes from the book Paradise Found: Nature in America at the Time of Discovery, by Steve Nicholls (University of Chicago Press, 2009). More re the book in the days to come.
Illustration from a Squidoo page devoted to the passenger pigeon.