Extinct Birds of North America - Introduction

Most Americans living today are not aware of the incredible destruction of wildlife that was just ending at the end of the 19th century. What we see today is but a pale reflection of a richness that amazed the first Europeans coming here. Documented on these pages are five species of extinct North American birds. These birds were beautiful, dramatic, interesting and valuable creatures. They played a big role in the world of the humans living at the time.

A century ago, attitudes were changing as people realized that there were limits to the bounty of nature. The 'sudden' disappearance of the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and numerous shorebirds shocked professional biologists and the public. There were increasingly calls to preserve the remaining animals, fish and birds. These were resisted by local and business interests and to some extent state legislatures. Increasing public pressure led to Federal intervention.

The demise of these birds advanced the development of scientific resource management and wildlife study. By the 1920's, Aldo Leopold and others were formulating the concept of resource management. But the lesson was learned at the expense of these creatures and we are all poorer for it.