The Cabin Idaho asked me to teach a writing camp for kids this summer in conjunction with The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. Yesterday afternoon I and two awesome Cabin staff (Katie & Ashley) met with the education coordinator at the center for a tour and planning session.
I mentioned that I found the book A Feathered River Across The Sky about the extinction of the passenger pigeon deeply moving and was planning a writing activity around passenger pigeons and other extinct bird species.
The education coordinator mentioned that though they deal primarily with birds of prey, they had a passenger pigeon in their specimen collection.
Naturally, I got super excited when he mentioned that we also might be able to swing by the specimen collection to view it.
And we did. We went into this room of locked white cabinets, and the archivist from the research library next door opened a white cabinet. The specimen lay alone in the center of a wooden drawer. It was surprisingly delicate and tiny.
The staff was super chill and let me take a few photos of it.
Here are two pictures of its underside:
A close-up of the specimen tag:
This particular passenger pigeon was found at a Chicago market in 1886.
It was around this point that I started crying. It was the only time I’ve been so close to an extinct species, and the feeling was overwhelming.
The archivist then picked it up and held it so I could get a good look at the iridescent plumage on the neck and back:
After that, I had Ashley take my picture with it:
You can totally tell I’ve been crying, but it was worth it.