passenger pigeon n. (Zool.), A once common wild pigeon of North America (Ectopistes migratorius), now extinct. It was so called on account of its extensive migrations. Note: The passenger pigeon presents a striking example of how dramatic a negative influence man can have on other species. The population of the passenger pigeon is estimated to have been at one time as high as five billion in North America, but over a period of about one hundred years large scale hunting for use as food and killing for "sport" reduced the numbers below that necessary to sustain existence of the species. At one time over 200,000 birds were shipped to the food markets in one day. The last wild pigeon is believed to have died in 1900, and the last bird in captivity died in 1914. It is a rare example of the date of a man-made extinction being recorded with certainty.
Collaborative International Dictionary of English 0.48