16 May 2014

Pigeon Trade in New York

From the Plattsburgh (Clinton Co.) Republican.

About the middle of April last, these remarkable birds began to make their appearance in flocks flying from the south in incalculable numbers — flock succeeding flock, covering some four or five miles in length and breadth, a continued succession, surpassing any accurate description. A calculation was made by a good mathematician of the number that passed into the town of Beekmantown, in this county, in two days, (allowing two feet square for each pigeon,) and the amount was nearly one million.

The pigeons encamped and nested on "Rand Hill" in said town, in vast numbers, occupying the forest some six miles in length and from one to two miles in width; and by careful inspection it was ascertained that there were from twenty to eighty nests in a tree. They soon began to fly east from their encampment a few miles to the lake for water, and in such flocks as almost to obscure the sun — the males always flying in the morning and the females in the afternoon. They totally refused grain for some time, subsisting on beech nuts, which were abundant in the vicinity of their nests.

The news of this congregation of "birds of the right sort," soon reached the ears of old pigeons catchers in different parts of the country, and about the first of May a company came from Massachusetts and commenced "baiting." They continued to bait until the pigeons would eat from 4 to 6 bushels of grain per day, and in the mean time other companies came on and commenced business. All persons engaged in netting or shooting these birds were successful beyond precedent. It would be almost impossible to give an accurate account of the whole number taken, but four companies engaged in catching and purchasing, the writer known, forwarded to the different markets not less than one hundred and fifty thousand dozens. The writer was an eye witness to the number caught and dressed by the first company and forwarded to market (the Harris Co., from Massachusetts,) which amounted to four thousand dozens! The companies continued to take them in large numbers until about the 17th July, when in the course of a week not a pigeon could be seen — they flew in a body from their encampment to the northeast, through Henryville, in Canada, and to the forests of the state of Maine.

Large quantities of grain were purchased and fed out — such as cracked corn and buckwheat; the writer had not the means of ascertaining the exact amount, but presumes, from the best information he can obtain, that not less than seven hundred bushels were used in this way.

Purchasers paid from 25 to 50 cents per dozen for live pigeons.

August 11, 1851. The pigeon trade. Buffalo Courier 17(2288): 12.