User Submitted Cryptid Sighting: Passenger Pigeon
Location: (Town name withheld for privacy) Massachusetts, USA / Mid-July 2014
Possible Cryptid: Unknown species of bird
Witnesses: 1 main witness, 2 additional witnesses for a short period of time
Reporter info: Emma, age 14 at the time of sighting
User described details of sighting:
“ - Background Info -
As we do most summers, my family and I drove to my grandparents’ house for a barbecue. Their house is large and old, surrounded expansive woodland and next to a small pond. They have a large garden and bird feeder along with a big yard including an overgrown field so they get a lot of wildlife scurrying about on the property like mice, turtles, raccoons, deer, countless species of birds, and just about any typical woodland critter you can think of.
As the whole family was settling in to eat, I sat in the gazebo nearby. It was a typical bright summer day and I nearly went inside until a bright red flash caught my eye. Overhead, an incredibly shiny object quickly flew past me and over the pond and out of sight. It flew back the same way it came and presumably into the woods on the other side of the house. It went back and forth, always flying in a straight line from point A to point B. The third or fourth time it flew by, I got my dad and pointed it to him as it flew by again. My father has extensive knowledge of the local wildlife and beyond, but was unable to identify it. I then got my grandmother, another long time local to try and name the creature without success.
Everyone went on with the feast, leaving me to observe the animal. When the sun was about halfway down the sky, it didn’t return from it’s back and forth flight. Once we got home (well after seven or eight o’clock) I dug through my birding encyclopedias and the Internet but found nothing that could be a definite match. I’m confident it was a bird due to its behavior and appearance.
-Description of the Cryptid-
The bird seemed as if about the size of a large dove or pigeon, although this is an estimate considering it flew anywhere from 10 to 20 feet above the ground. It had a rounded, plump belly that I can only describe as an obese pigeon. The feature that stumped me was the coloration of the belly: an unnaturally bright metallic scarlet. The only way I can describe the sheen and color is like a polished Christmas ornament on a sunny day. It was completely smooth and flawless, with no indication of being plastered on. The bright summer sun reflected off it whenever it went by when directly overhead, the glare practically blinding to look at.
The wings, head, and tail seemed disproportionately small compared to the belly, although it could be attributed to my poor memory or the glare messing up my vision. The shape of the head, wing, and tail appeared typical of an American robin**. The coloration seemed to be an ashy grey or charcoal, but once again this is debatable as it could’ve been how they were silhouetted against the sky. The detail that convinced me it was some form of avian was its flight, however. The way it flew was identical to how most finches, songbirds, and woodpeckers do (a few quick flaps of the wings, a short pause where it lowers slightly, then a few more wing-beats to return to its original height). I do not know of any machine that can imitate such a flight so fluidly and naturally.
This had to be my first (and so far only) encounter with the unknown, so I made as many notes to myself as possible to keep data close to the original sighting. I hope you enjoyed this curious case as much as I do! Many thanks in advance for your time and patience and may you have a wonderful day!”
Thank you Emma for the fantastic report of your sighting! It is always a huge plus when witnesses record so much detail in what they saw, helps narrow down what the creature in question could be. Also, I am a huge fan of cryptid birds as they are rarely reported by those who have seen them (outside of Thunderbird sightings that is). Many assume that what they are seeing flying around has been categorized already regardless of how strange it seems, so they don’t tell anyone. So it’s always a treat when someone trusts their gut and lets people know that was they saw wasn’t normal.
Now, onto your sighting. After reading your report many times, my mind settles on three possible candidates.
1.) A normal pigeon (or other common bird) with a color mutation.
2.) An out of place or North American sub-species of a Bird-of-Paradise. These birds are members of the Paradisaeidae family and are most often found in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. The males of this species sport bright and iridescent colors that help them attract mates. These colorful feathers can cover the entire body of the bird, or be grouped together in one area on the birds body (ex: the under wing, chest, neck, or tail feathers). You noted how this unknown bird had a “metallic scarlet” belly, that description brings to mind the type of feathers that a Superb Bird of Paradise has.
3.) This is the bird that I personally believe you saw. Your bird had grey wings, a large chest, small head, and metallic looking red belly feathers. These traits sound almost exactly like those of the extinct Passenger Pigeon. Male Passenger Pigeons were described as having bluish-gray feathers on their heads, wings, tail feathers, and hindneck. Their chests were covered in iridescent display feathers that were seen as either bright bronze, or violet/golden green depending on the angle. Their heads were slightly smaller than their other body parts and when compared to the size of their chests, it seemed even smaller. See photo above.
Many people believe that the last Passenger Pigeon went extinct on September 1st, 1914 while in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. The pigeon made its home in Eastern North America and were quite common in Massachusetts. They were members of both the pigeon and dove family. They were extremely fast, traveled together in huge flocks to fight off predators, had extremely loud calls that were harsh to the ears, could fly at speeds of up to 62mph, and at one point had the largest population of any bird on earth (somewhere around 5 billion). They were also described as being quite delicious, and it was this fact that would be their downfall. People would often hunt the birds when their large flocks flew over a town. When the railroad began to become more prominent as a means of cross country travel, groups of hunters would actually follow the flocks as they migrated across America. They would shoot and kill as many birds as they could in order to sell the meat. Hunters would trap the pigeons with large nets and also use poisoned corn to kill hundreds of birds at a time. They would burn their nesting trees to the ground as well as use explosives to destroy huge timber giants within minutes. As soon as the birds fell to the earth, they would be clubbed or stabbed with pitchforks and thrown into a sack or barrel for sale. It was because of this over hunting and the complete disregard for the life of this bird that they ended up extinct within a few years.
Even though they are officially listed as extinct, people still claim to see them flying around from time to time (much like reports of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker). I personally like to believe that the foolish and selfish actions of men were not enough to destroy this once thriving species and that a population of them still survives in areas untouched by human hands.
If you have a Cryptid sighting you would like to share, you can email your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org
-The Pine Barrens Institute