For those of you unaware, Rocky Mountain Adventures’ pigeons are homing pigeons. They are often mistaken for carrier pigeons or passenger pigeons. However, the passenger pigeon became extinct in 1929. Here is a short history of how that came to be.
Prior to its extinction, there were estimates that 3 to 5 billion passenger pigeons flew the skies of America at the time European settlements were beginning. There were so many, that there were reports that the skies would blacken with their passing overhead. Cotton Mather noted that there were so many birds that it would take hours for the flocks to pass and that they would stretch out for the width of a mile or more.
Their extinction is primarily due to over hunting. They provided a source of food and barrels upon barrels of the hunted bird were sent to New York markets. Large numbers of the birds were shot for sport. With the advent of railroad lines, commercial hunting became more prosperous. During this time, the telegraph was even used to inform hunters of the locations of flocks. It was stated that about a quarter-million passenger pigeons were shot in a single day in 1986. The hunters were reportedly aware that they were shooting the last wild flock. Over a decade later in March of 1900, a 14 year-old boy in Ohio shot what was believed to be the last wild passenger pigeon.
After about the mid 1860’s it was apparent that the great flocks were no more. Efforts were made to capture the wild bird but few survived or reproduced in captivity. The clearing of forest land for farming and cities without doubt contributed to the pigeons’ demise. From 1909 to 1912, rewards were offered by the American Ornithologist’s Union to anyone who could find a nest or nesting colony. No one claimed the award.
Reuter’s news service got it start just after Paul Julius Reuter began delivering news between Aachen, Germany and Brussels using a covey of 45 pigeons. In 1850, the birds traveled the 76 mile distance in two hours to deliver the latest news, stock prices and other information. Although the telegraph was in operation within each of the countries, there were gaps in the transmission lines within and between the two. At the time, the railroad carried most of the news over a route that took 6 hours. In less than half the time, Reuter was able to transmit his information to clients willing to pay a premium for early financial information. After about a year, the telegraph reached most points so the pigeon delivery service offered no advantage and Reuter had to develop other ways to deliver timely information.
In the early 1800’s, the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used the birds to send information to their financial houses quicker than that available by other means. The speed of the information assisted the family in accumulating a fortune that helped make them the name they are today. In 1815, Count Rothschild, so the story is told, was aware of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo much earlier than the rest of England. Rothschild used the knowledge to make financial decisions based on fact long before others were aware of the battle’s outcome.
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