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‘From Billions to None’

Film Documents Extinction of Passenger Pigeon

A CGI animated sequence recreates a passenger pigeon flock estimated to be at least one billion birds by a then unknown John James Audubon. Copyright 2014. Waubansee On Sept. 1, 1914, the last known passenger pigeon in existence, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. For decades, billions of passenger pigeons filled the sky. The documentary, “From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction,” follows naturalist and author Joel Greenberg on a journey to discover how and why this species went extinct, and how this story is more relevant than ever today.

Using cutting-edge CGI animation techniques, the documentary will recreate massive passenger pigeon flocks in flight, including an animated sequence recreating a flock estimated to be at least one billion birds by author John James Audubon in 1813. While traveling in Kentucky, Audubon wrote, “The air was literally filled with pigeons. The light of the noonday sky was obscured by an eclipse. The pigeons passed in undiminished number, and continued to do so for three days.”

The film will also recreate the ways in which people destroyed this species, including bizarre hunting techniques, such as the use of a live decoy called a “stool pigeon.”

The story comes full circle with information by a marine biologist about the depletion of many shark species due to the demand for their fins. Also, the documentary briefly examines the De-Extinction movement and features an interview with Ben Novak, the scientist who is working to bring back the passenger pigeon.

On Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, at 10:00 pm, “From Billions to None,” will air on WTTW11. Watch a trailer of the documentary.




View a graphic about passenger pigeons, rock pigeons, and mourning doves.



--Graphic by Kristen Thometz.

View a slideshow.