Understanding Extinction Patterns

100th Anniversary of the Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Two hundred years ago, passenger pigeons were the most abundant bird on earth, often seen flying overhead in flocks so deep and wide that they darkened the sky. But due to overhunting, the species that once numbered in the billions dwindled at a catastrophic rate. On September 1, 1914, the last remaining passenger pigeon, “Martha,” died in captivity.

Though extinction has been part of our planet’s history since long before the loss of the passenger pigeon, today species are going extinct at an alarming rate. What makes now so different than the other five mass extinctions? Understanding why it’s happening can help us figure out how to reduce its impact.

This August and September, join The Field Museum for a series of events and programs focused on understanding extinction patterns and causes, and learn more about what we can do about it. See what lessons we’ve learned from extinct species, like the passenger pigeon, to extinct ecosystems. Hear about success stories of species that have been recovered from the brink of extinction, including the peregrine falcons and the American bison. And see what simple steps we can take in our own lives to help ensure that fellow species continue to thrive today.

Tuesday, August 26, 5:30pm: Pigeons, Prairies and Peregrines panel discussion

Saturday, August 30, 2pm: Lecture & Book Signing with Steve Goodman and Bill Jungers

Friday, August 29, 10am-12pm: Meet a Scientist with Mary Hennen and Ben Marks

Saturday, September 6, 9am-12pm: Beaubien Woods Volunteer Stewardship Day (RSVP required)

Saturday, September 20, 11am-2pm: Art and Science Spotlight: Butterflies

Other ways to get involved!

  • Volunteer! Participate in a volunteer stewardship workday to help restore and improve essential habitat for species close to home. There are opportunities across the Chicago region – find one today.
  • Create new habitats by planting native plants in your yard, place of work, or neighborhood. Even small spaces can make a big difference – learn more about sustainable gardening
  • Participate in a local Citizen Science effort to help scientists understand how species are responding to changes in our environment.
  • Support and elect politicians and leaders that understand the importance of protecting biodiversity and are willing to support legislation such as the Endangered Species Act.
  • Reduce your own ecological footprint