18 May 2014

Millions of Pigeons - A Roost Many Miles in Length

A Torchlight Shooting Expedition

Moscow, Pa., April 14. — A wilderness known as the Beech Woods covers a large portion of western Pike county and northwestern Monroe county, this state. Ike Bennett and Clint Waters, bark peddlers, were in the depths of the woods on Friday last, when they were startled by a sudden darkening of the sky and a noise like a heavy gale of wind. At the same time the trees about them began to fill with wild pigeons. They came from the northward, and as far as the men could see in that direction the air was black with the birds. They settled down in the trees as thick as bees, and in an incredibly short space of time the woods seemed to be a living mass of pigeons. They lighted in the trees in such numbers that large branches were broken by their weight. They seemed to take no heed of the men, and crowded the tree under which they stood, occupying branches almost within reach of them. Nearly half an hour elapsed before they all found resting places in the woods. The bark peddlers killed hundreds of them with clubs, and walked five miles through the woods without reaching the end of the roost. The men say that with one swoop of a long club they could knock down dozens to the ground, creating only a temporary panic among the pigeons, and that only among those directly attacked.

The lumbermen and others, when told by Bennett and Waters of the wonderful sight they had seen, organized a night hunt. Dozens of men, armed with poles and guns, started for the woods, and reached there after dark. They carried torches of pine knots. The pigeons alarmed by the noise of the guns and the glaring of the torches, rose from their perches and flew blindly about. For two hours the poles and guns made sad havoc among the roosting birds. The roar of thousands of wings, the cracking of branches, flashing torches, swashing poles, and reports of guns formed a scene wild and terrible. Thousands of pigeons were slaughtered before the lawless and ruthless destroyers were glutted. Each one brought away as many as he could carry, which was a small portion compared with the number left on the ground to feed foxes and wolves.

On Saturday morning another expedition started out for further slaughter of the pigeons. The birds had evidently sought the roost for the purpose of nesting. The woods swarmed with hunters on Saturday. The great flock finally rose en masse, and in a short time every bird had disappeared. The direction of the flight was westward toward the Susquehanna. It is estimated that the flock was fully 12 miles long, and 4 or 5 in width.

About 4 weeks ago an enormous flock of wild pigeons passed over Sullivan Co., N.Y. and settled in the wilderness in the northern part of that county, near the head waters of the Beaverkill. It is believed that this was the same flock mentioned above. It extended from Gilman's , Sullivan Co., to a point 13 miles to the eastward, and was several minutes in passing over, flying high.

April, 21, 1876. Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph 8(250): 1. Also: April 22, 1876 in Carbon Advocate 4(2): 3.