Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon
Scientific NameEctopistes migratorius
Common NamePassenger Pigeon
Care LevelComplex (due to extinct status)
LifespanUnclear for domesticated; wild was around 15 years
Adult SizeAbout 16 inches
DietNuts, fruits, seeds, and insects
OriginNorth America
TemperamentSociable, gregarious

History & Domestication

The Passenger Pigeon is a poignant chapter in the annals of avian history. Once considered among the most numerous birds on Earth, with flocks that darkened the skies, the Passenger Pigeon’s wild population plummeted dramatically in the 19th century due to overhunting and habitat destruction. The last confirmed wild bird was shot in 1901, and the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, died in captivity in 1914.

While the wild Passenger Pigeon is no longer with us, there have been efforts and discussions about possibly bringing back this species through a controversial process called de-extinction. This method would utilize the closest living relative, the band-tailed pigeon, and modify its genome to resemble the Passenger Pigeon’s. However, as of the last update, these birds haven’t been successfully bred or domesticated, making the care specifics largely theoretical and based on historical observations.


Adult Passenger Pigeons were approximately 16 inches in length. They showcased a sleek profile, slender tail, and strong wings which allowed them to fly at incredible speeds, estimated to be around 60 miles per hour. Their size was conducive to their migratory habits, allowing them to cover vast distances in search of food.


In the wild, based on observations from the 19th century, Passenger Pigeons were believed to have a lifespan of up to 15 years. Factors such as predation, disease, and food scarcity could have influenced their longevity. However, it’s unclear what their lifespan might have been in a domesticated or controlled environment.


Historical records suggest that Passenger Pigeons had unique breeding habits. They established vast nesting sites where countless birds gathered. Each pair would produce a single egg per breeding season. Due to their vast numbers, these nesting sites would have been a sight to behold, a cacophony of cooing and bustling activity.

Unique Features

Passenger Pigeons were distinct in their appearance, with males boasting a slate blue-gray color with a pinkish hue on the chest. Females had a more muted, brownish tone. Their eyes were orange or reddish, set against a backdrop of dark, almost black, feathers that made the eyes stand out strikingly.

Behavior and Temperament

As flock birds, Passenger Pigeons were profoundly social creatures. They were known to form immense flocks, sometimes containing billions of individuals. This gregarious nature was a double-edged sword; while it offered protection from predators, it also made them easy targets for human hunters. Their social nature meant that, theoretically, a domesticated Passenger Pigeon would require company and not thrive in isolation.


While there’s no documented evidence of individual Passenger Pigeons being tamed or handled frequently, it’s believed that they were quite docile, especially when in captivity. Observations from the few that were kept in captivity towards the end of the 19th century hinted at their ability to become accustomed to human presence.

Grooming Needs

In a theoretical domesticated setting, the Passenger Pigeon, like other pigeons, would have self-groomed, preening its feathers to keep them clean. Bathing opportunities, through shallow water dishes or misting, would have helped maintain their plumage.

Diet & Nutrition

Passenger Pigeons primarily fed on hard mast like acorns and chestnuts. They also consumed fruits, seeds, and occasionally insects. Their diet led them to practice migratory movements, following the availability of food. In a domesticated setting, a mix of nuts, seeds, and fruits would have been ideal for their nutrition.


Being native to North America, Passenger Pigeons were accustomed to varying temperatures, from the warmer climates of the Southern states to the colder Northern regions. They were hardy birds but would have benefited from shelter during extreme conditions.

Common Health Issues

Based on observations and reports from the 19th century, wild Passenger Pigeons faced threats from diseases common to birds, like avian pox. In a domesticated setting, they might have been susceptible to typical pigeon ailments, such as parasitic infections or respiratory conditions.

Habitat Requirements

Given their flocking nature, a theoretical domesticated Passenger Pigeon habitat would need to be spacious, allowing for flight and social interaction. Trees or high perches would have been ideal for mimicking their natural environment.

Cost of Care

Quantifying the cost of care for a bird that’s currently extinct and hasn’t been domesticated in the conventional sense is challenging. However, in a theoretical scenario where they were brought back through de-extinction and domesticated, initial costs would be considerable, given the technology and care required. Ongoing expenses would include food, health check-ups, and habitat maintenance.

Passenger Pigeon FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)