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Posted: June 28, 2018


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In 1914, the very last passenger pigeon stands in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her wings droop. Her body shakes. Visitors try to throw sand at her to make her move. Keepers rope off her cage to protect her. On September 1, Martha dies. After she is stuffed, workers put her on display at the Smithsonian Museum.


A bright green bird with a yellow head darts from a stream to its nest in a large sycamore tree. But it doesn’t live in the tropics. It lives in Wisconsin—a place you expect to see fields and cows, not parrots!

The Carolina parakeet was America’s only native parrot. Farmers killed off the parakeets because they saw them as seed-eating pests. Others hunted them for their feathers, which made colorful hat decorations. The last one lived in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. His name was Incas. He died in 1918—in the same cage where Martha the pigeon had died four years before.

Eskimo Curlew

The Eskimo curlew is—or was—a brownish shorebird with a down-curved bill. It once migrated from South America to parts of Canada and Alaska.

People hunted the birds. They also plowed under grassy prairie land for farmland. As they did, the Rocky Mountain grasshopper (which once blanketed the land with swarms) died out. Grass was gone. Grasshoppers were gone. Soon curlews, which eat grasshoppers, were gone too.

People guess the birds went extinct in the late 1960s. People last saw and photographed the rare birds then. But researchers can’t feel totally certain the curlew is extinct. Once in a while, someone reports an Eskimo curlew sighting. But they have usually actually seen another brown, hooked-billed bird: the whimbrel.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

“Knock-knock! Knock-knock!”

If you hear that sound, you just might be hearing an ivory-billed woodpecker. Their unique pecking sound sets them apart—or set them apart. People think the woodpecker went extinct 50 years ago because its habitat disappeared. But in 2005, someone took a video in an Arkansas forest. It seemed to show the long lost bird. Was it really an ivory-billed woodpecker? Some say yes. Others say no.