Martha's Day

Passenger pigeon
100th anniversary of extinct bird marked with poignant tribute at ZSL London Zoo

On Monday 1 September, time was brought to a standstill at ZSL London Zoo to mark 100 years since the death of the world’s last passenger pigeon, Martha.

At 12noon, the exact hour when Martha passed away in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914 and her species became extinct, bird keepers stopped time on the Zoo’s iconic clock tower outside of its Victorian bird house.

Throughout the 19th Century, the passenger pigeon was the world’s most abundant bird and flocks of more than one hundred million birds would regularly darken the sky. However, a huge surge in hunting and deforestation saw them rapidly driven towards extinction in just a few decades, with Martha being the last survivor.

The demise of the passenger pigeon is one of the fastest and most dramatic extinctions ever witnessed, and ultimately caused, by humans.

Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL, says: “The 100th anniversary of Martha’s death is not only a chance to remember her species, but to draw attention to the plight of countless other species who continue to face extinction because of our actions.

“At ZSL we are working on dozens of conservation and research projects around the world to help prevent future extinctions, but as the example of the passenger pigeon demonstrates, we need to act as quickly as we can before there are many more Marthas.”

Passenger pigeon

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