Sunday, August 31, 2014

September 1st, 1914 -- September 1st, 2014 The 100th Anniversary of the Death of Martha The Passenger Pigeon

It was Sept. 1st, 1914. It was 100 yrs. ago, between 1pm and 4 pm, that "Martha" the last Passenger Pigeon lay dying alone in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. No one noticed she had fallen from her perch, no one came to help her, she was found dead sometime after 4pm that day. They once numbered in the BILLIONS and darkened the sky for HOURS as they flew by, you could hear them before they were ever seen. She was the last one, the last of her species, Sept. 1st, 1914 was a sad day for humanity. Today I am in mourning for what was lost that day. Today I took Pepe and placed him by our window. He looks different today, he looks dejected and depressed. He looks like he is watching the sky, I would swear his head moved as if he is listening. Watching and listening for the BILLIONS of his dead friends, watching and listening for the beginning of the flock that would darken the sky. He looks like he is ready to fly away, he looks like he is about to join the first flock he sees. He and I are  watching, he and I are listening, he and I are hoping for something that will never be again. We do this every year on Sept. 1st, year after year. Its' been 100 years now and nothing. The skies are silent and have been for 100 years but we do not lose hope. When I see dark clouds in the distance or hear a strange fluttering sound carried in the wind, I always grab Pepe. I grab him and I take him outside. I grab him in hope they are back. I grab him and wait. I grab him and hope. I grab him so he can fly away but they never come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What is a Passenger Pigeon worth // Cuanto vale una Paloma Migratoria

What is a Passenger Pigeon specimen worth ? I get asked this question often. I answer by giving the person the following facts :

When the last "census" of passenger Pigeon specimens was done back in the very early 1960's there were 1532 specimens in the world. These were mostly in museums, with a handful in private collections. This number of 1532 included mostly "skins" and not actual "mounted" specimens. Then you have to ask yourself, of the mounted specimens, how many were in good or higher condition ? This means were they "museum display" quality. If all this is taken into account from the 1532 that existed then how many are in this condition now ? The answer is > no one knows but a good estimate is probably 100 to 250. This now leads to the second explanation and facts :

The number of Passenger Pigeon "skins" are the majority of what exist in Museum collections. They vary in quality depending on their condition but are not for the general public to see in a display. We then have to go back to the approx. 100 to 250 which are mounted and are in good to excellent condition. That is all that is left, that's it and they are very rarely put on sale to anyone or any institution. There have been about 5 Passenger Pigeon specimens which have come up for sale on Ebay and other Auction Houses, in the last 15 years. I have seen prices range from $3000 for one that had no head and was in horrific condition to $2.4 Million dollars for a beautiful specimen.

The question I ask the people who ask me is simple, what would you pay for something that everyday that passes becomes more and more rarer, in ANY condition ?  The Passenger Pigeon 'census" of the early 1960's listed 1532 known specimens BUT my own research and that of others has shown this number no longer exist. There are specimens which were destroyed in various ways since then and have disappeared.  My studies have shown that approx. 1300 to 1500 might still actually exist in all conditions. This makes the remaining specimens even rarer and among them a mounted Passenger Pigeon in excellent condition is extremely rare. My opinion as an expert is this, a Passenger Pigeon mounted specimen is worth anything from $10,000 and up for an extremely "very bad condition" specimen and $1 Million and up for a mounted specimen in excellent condition. The few specimens that exist every day get older and worn and tattered. There are wars and fires and mites that destroy them. The few existing ones become more and more valuable to the world and to science with each passing day.

The specimen I own "Pepe The Passenger Pigeon" is in extremely excellent condition. I have been offered sizable amounts of money for him, by private collectors and museums. I keep "Pepe" in a secure "fire proof" bank vault for protection against fire, thieves and burglars. I only take him out when I am going to give a Lecture or presentation and I always have Law Enforcement or Armed Security on the premises. I take no chances, as "Pepe" is worth his weight in Diamonds to posterity, science and the world.