7 Extinct Birds That Should Never Be Forgotten

Learn about extinct bird species of North America, including passenger pigeons, seaside sparrows, the ivory-billed woodpecker and great auks.

Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeondenisk0/Getty Images
The passenger pigeon or wild pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was a bird that existed in North America until the early 20th century when it went extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction. This illustration was published in 1870.

1. Passenger pigeons have been extinct for more than 100 years. At one time, huge flocks of these birds darkened the sky as they moved around eastern North America.

Dusky Seaside Sparrow

2. Only six dusky seaside sparrows, all male, were left in 1979. Pollution, pesticides and loss of marsh habitat caused the extinction of the bird species. All about sparrows: What birders should know.

Great Auk

Antique illustration of Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis)ilbusca/Getty Images
Antique illustration of a great auk (Pinguinus impennis)

3. Great auks were hunted for their meat, feathers, and eggs, leading to their extinction in the 1800s. Today, stuffed specimens of this extinct bird are rare; only about 80 exist in museum collections around the world.

Heath Hen

4. Heath hens vanished in 1932. A subspecies of today’s greater prairie-chicken, they were last seen at a reserve on Martha’s Vineyard.

Carolina Parakeet

5. Only one parrot species was native to the U.S.: the Carolina parakeet. Once abundant in North America, farmers killed off large numbers of these birds, contributing to their official extinction in 1939.

Great Toothed Diver

6. The great toothed diver (Hesperornis regalis) lived more than 83 million years ago. Flightless, it used its hind legs and lobed toes to swim, similar to grebes. It was about 5 feet long! Check out 20 types of ducks to look for in spring.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

An illustration of two ivory billed wood peckerImagezoo/Getty Images
An illustration of two ivory billed woodpeckers

7. The ivory-billed woodpecker was once the third-largest woodpecker in the world. It was believed to have gone extinct at least 50 years ago, but brief sightings were reported from Arkansas’ Big Woods in 2004 and 2005. Despite extensive efforts to locate the bird, the species was recently officially declared extinct by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Discover 11 types of woodpeckers birders should know.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines as a time and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds, and attended various festivals, including Sedona Hummingbird Festival, Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival and Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.