24 February 2012

Pigeons Abundant and Brought to Boston Market

One of the earliest known accounts of the vast historic flights of the Passenger Pigeon was published in the Boston News-Letter newspaper in August 1732. The few lines of text are given here, with the archaic use of a f for s changed to conform with current typography and to make it easier to read:

"We hear from several of the neighbouring Towns, that on Monday last vast Flights of Pidgeons came over, and they were caught in abundance; and on Tuesday they were brought to Town in such Plenty, that they fell from 12 d. to 4 d. per Dozen."

The Monday previous was August 4th, based upon a review of an online historic calendar created by an Australian, which readily presents the details of a millennium, finely presented.

Boston is in Suffolk County, Massachusetts according to online details, so this report indicates the occurrence of the Passenger Pigeon in the geographic location.

This record with its exquisite — though sparse details — dates to 280 years ago, as published within days of when the wild pigeons had been observed, with the sublime detail of how the local game market prices responded due to a glut of pigeons.

It was in 1732 and in a locally issued newspaper! This is a profound and essential indication of the importance of newspapers when considering the history of ornithology in northern America. Information available in the papers cannot be ignored.

Nothing was reported on how the birds responded to their being taking among the city woods and parks.

It will require further research to determine the monetary value for a "d." as it was given without explanation in the article. It was apparently the norm at the time when the article was published.

The details of this event were also conveyed to additional readers, as other newspapers published the basics of this report on their issued pages.