From The Passenger Pigeon in Pennsylvania
By John C. French
Stray Passenger Pigeons Reported by a Rochester Observer Familiar With the Birds
From the New York Sun, January, 1919.
To the Editor of the Sun:
I have seen Passenger Pigeons more or less frequently for the last fifteen years in the vicinity of Rochester. I am familiar with the Passenger Pigeon; in the town where as a boy I used to spend my summers, Winona, Minn., there was a shooting club that used to shoot pigeons from traps and the pigeons used were wild pigeons.
The shooting stand was in front of a small grand stand on the local race track, and the entire space underneath the stand was divided into two places by laths and was filled with wild pigeons, which were trapped. We boys with our guns used to post ourselves around the outskirts of the race track, and any pigeon that escaped the trap-shooters was pretty sure to get his.
I shot them as a boy as they were roosting on telegraph wires in the street that ran by my uncle’s residence and had many of them as pets and tried to raise them and breed them. Thus, I am very familiar with the birds. So is my wife.
This summer, I saw four, one flying, one perched singly on a telegraph wire – a cock – and in September I saw two perched on a telegraph wire in the vicinity of my home in the country. These two birds remained there some time; they were about 300 feet away, and we examined them carefully through our glasses and they were Passenger Pigeons.
I have seen them, perhaps one or two a season, the past twenty years in the Genesee Valley. I don’t think there is any possibility of a mistake. They were very common when I was a boy in Minnesota and my people used to put down every season two or three big crocks of them for use in the winter time.
George J. French
Rochester, N.Y., January 19th, 1919.
39 Mill Street, Smethport, Pa. Jan. 22, 1919.
Colonel Henry W. Shoemaker,
Knowing you to be a man who likes to keep track of natural history, and a man who is trying to keep a tab on the birds and animals that have become extinct in our country, we thought the following might interest you:
In the fore part of September, 1918, as we were going to our war garden, which is in the town of Concord, Mass., we saw a flock of about 200 beautiful Passenger Pigeons. There is not a possible chance for us to be mistaken about these birds, for the sky was clear, the sun shoe bright and the birds passed within 150 feet of us, so we had a fair view of them.
The country there is practically level and all cleared, so we could see these birds a long distance. They flew in a northerly direction until they were nearly out of our range of vision, when they circled to the left and came back on the northwest side of us, and about the same distance from us as they were when they passed at first, but on the opposite side, and we could plainly see the white breasts of the hens and the red breasts of the toms. These birds are a uniform color except the red and white breasts of the toms and hens. When these birds are making a flight they fly as steady as wild geese or ducks. They do not wobble or criss cross, but go straight ahead, unless something fightens them.
Then too, they have the long, pointed tail. Of course, there are rare exceptions as to color. During our time we saw ten or twelve spotted birds. Some of them are about white. During the latter part of the fifties we saw a now white Passenger Pigeon, ten or twelve different times.
We have photographs in our memory of the Passenger Pigeon in all stages that are as plain as the most skilled photographer could have produced in a lifetime. We have seen billions of these birds. We have caught over sixteen hundred dozens with nets, and we have shot thousands of them. When a small boy, we caught hundreds of them in quail traps; so taking our experience into consideration, we think we ought to be able to tell a flock of Passenger Pigeons today, for our memory is good, even if we are growing old.
Very truly yours,