Birds on the Brink
Take Apart SMART!
Posted: June 28, 2018
  • 1 Extinct Birds
    Angelika Nelson shows ivory-billed woodpeckers at the Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University. (AP)
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    Specimens of the extinct passenger pigeon are displayed at the museum in Columbus, Ohio. (AP)
  • 3 Extinct Birds
    The stuffed body of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, is prepared for exhibit at the Smithsonian. (AP)
  • 1 Extinct Birds
  • 2 Extinct Birds
  • 3 Extinct Birds


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Pull open this metal drawer at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity. Try not to shriek. Inside, you’ll find 17 dead birds. They are the last passenger pigeons in the world.

Almost no one alive today has ever seen a living passenger pigeon. But once, passenger pigeons were the most abundant bird in North America! The birds soared through the sky in huge groups like clouds. There were so many, it would take two whole hours for them to fly over a city! A writer for an Ohio newspaper said, “Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted. . . several (people) dropped on their knees and prayed.” The birds blocked out the sun and dropped dung like snowfall. When they landed in such great numbers, they knocked limbs off trees. Now that’s a lot of pigeons! Too many, people thought. People hunted the troublesome birds. But they went way overboard. By 1914, the birds had totally disappeared!

You can think of this Ohio museum as a library of dead birds . . . and so much more. The museum houses a huge collection. It includes all kinds of birds, ticks, mites, plants, fish, and worms. Grant Terrell is an assistant curator at the museum. “Each specimen is a library book,” he says, “and these are the library books that we can’t reprint.”

Researchers just finished a five-year study. They learned that out of every eight bird species, one is in danger of extinction. The museum—with its drawers full of “last birds”—helps us take that study seriously. We will never again be able to enjoy seeing passenger pigeons in the wild. We will never get another chance to study their behavior. Passenger pigeons aren’t the only bird species to totally disappear from the planet. Will they be the last?

Lessons from Extinction

A drawer full of dead birds is a reminder. “Birds really have gone extinct. It could happen again.” We can study each instance of extinction to learn how to protect birds in the future.

Memory is a key to wisdom. Have you ever heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”? If something isn’t right in front of our faces, we can forget all about it! God knows we often need tangible reminders to keep the truth in our minds. Can you think of any physical reminders that help His people remember Him? You’ll find a big one in Luke 22:19.