Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
Or listen live from anywhere at hoosierhistorylive.org!

June 28 show

Passenger pigeons and other extinct or endangered birds

Wood engraving image of men shooting at a large group of passenger pigeons. Image courtesy Whanganui Regional Museum.Passenger pigeons and Carolina parakeets are long gone from the Hoosier state - as well as everywhere else. In fact, the last wild passenger pigeon was shot in the southeastern Indiana town of Laurel in 1902, according to one of our guests.

Not only will Hoosier History Live! explore species of birds that once existed in Indiana, we also will look at some of the 26 bird species considered endangered in the state. Whooping cranes and cerulean warblers are among them. Nelson will be joined by three guests:

  • Joel Greenberg, an Illinois-based author of the new book A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. According to Joel, the passenger pigeon once was the most abundant bird in North America. Accounts by early settlers describe massive flights that darkened the sky, sometimes for days.
  • Joel Greenberg.Don Gorney, director of bird conservation and education for Amos Butler Audubon. Not only does Don give popular bird-watching walks across central Indiana, he has been a popular guest on previous Hoosier History Live! shows.
  • And Damon Lowe, chief curator of science and technology at the Indiana State Museum. From Aug. 10-Dec. 21, the State Museum will host an exhibit about the history of the passenger pigeon; it will include a small display of male and female passenger pigeon specimens.

According to our guest Don Gorney, the Carolina parakeet was "the only parrot species native to the eastern United States." It was gone from Indiana by the mid-1800s. So was the ivory-billed woodpecker, which Don describes as "the largest woodpecker found in the U.S." Like the passenger pigeon, those two species are extinct.

Damon Lowe.Whooping cranes, although small in number and listed as federally endangered, regularly migrate through Indiana, Don reports. Other species listed as endangered in Indiana - in addition to the cerulean warbler (which Don describes as "a small, bluish warbler of hardwood forests") - include the piping plover.

"This pale, small shorebird no longer nests in Indiana," Don says, "but it does migrate through in small numbers."

According to our guest Joel Greenberg, this year marks the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Although the last wild bird was shot in 1902 in Indiana, the final passenger pigeon in captivity died in 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo.

"The story of the passenger pigeon," Joel writes, "is a cautionary tale that no matter how common something is - be it alive or something inanimate like fuel or water - we can cause its depletion if we are not careful in our use."

According to Joel's book, when European settlers arrived in North America, "25 to 40 percent of the continent's birds were passenger pigeons, traveling in flocks so massive as to block out the sun for hours or even days. A male passenger pigeon represents the now-extinct species in the Indiana State Museum’s collection. Courtesy Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Collection.The downbeats of their wings would chill the air beneath and create a thundering roar that would drown out all other sound."

Among those who documented the presence of immense flocks of passenger pigeons in the Midwest was John James Audubon (1785-1851), the famous naturalist, artist and ornithologist.

Passenger pigeons were described as trim, muscular, speedy and nomadic. Unlike the carrier pigeon (rock pigeon) that originated in Europe and is now a common site in cities, passenger pigeons were native to the eastern half of the United States and Canada, Joel notes.

In addition to the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet - a gregarious species that our guest Don Gorney says traveled in "loud flocks which made it easy for farmers to shoot many of them at a time" - another extinct bird that once lived in Indiana was the Eskimo Curlew. Don Gorney with a hyacinth macaw.Don describes it as "a large snowbird that once was present in very large numbers as it migrated through the United States to its breeding grounds on the Canadian tundra."

Among the species that currently are endangered in Indiana, the cerulean warbler "needs large forest blocks to nest, but this type of habitat is disappearing," Don says.

According to our guest Damon Lowe, of the 26 bird species listed as endangered in Indiana, four also are on federal lists.

The upcoming exhibit at the Indiana State Museum will explore the impact that passenger pigeons have had on society and the story of their decline as well as highlight other species that are threatened. The exhibit eventually will travel to other state historic sites, including the Limberlost and Gene-Stratton Porter sites (in Geneva and Rome City) and Angel Mounds.

Learn more:

History Mystery

In northern Indiana, a wildlife area has become a popular destination for visitors to watch thousands of a species of migratory birds that stop there during the fall. Bird-viewing platform in northern Indiana.In what has been described as "one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles in the Midwest," thousands of the birds - flying from all directions, with distinctive cries - gather in the northwestern Indiana area to feed before continuing their migration to the south.

Question: What is the species of bird that gathers there by the thousands in the fall?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call into the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months.

The prize pack includes two tickets to the Eiteljorg Museum, courtesy of Visit Indy, four passes to the Indiana Experience, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, and two passes to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, courtesy of Conner Prairie.

Roadtrip: Upcoming county fairs

A large statue of a bumble bee appears at the Marion County Fair in Indianapolis. Image courtesy aroundindy.comWhat can be more nostalgic than the sights, sounds and smells of a trip to the county fair?

Guest Roadtripper Daina Chamness of Yours Truly Foods and other culinary adventures too numerous to count will talk about upcoming county fairs.

As the Marion County Fair winds down this Sunday, you'll have the St. Joseph, Pulaski, Boone, Shelby, and Bartholomew county fairs to looks forward to around the upcoming 4th of July weekend. Tune in this Saturday for all the particulars!

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer

Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant

Joan Hostetler, Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, Dana Waddell, advisors


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July 5 show

Presidential visits to Indiana

A flier promotes JFK's 1962 visit to Indianapolis. Image provided by Al Hunter.As he traveled to Washington D.C. for his presidential inauguration in 1861, Abraham Lincoln stopped in Indianapolis and spoke from the balcony of a hotel.

Harry Truman got a speeding ticket near Greenfield during a road trip with his wife, Bess, in 1953 after they had left the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the renowned French Lick Springs Hotel in 1931 for a key meeting with Democratic power brokers.

And Richard Nixon came to the Indiana University Medical Center in 1974 to visit his daughter Julie, who had been hospitalized suddenly while working for the Saturday Evening Post.

During this patriotic-themed weekend, Hoosier History Live! will explore the range of visits by American presidents (including future presidents, former presidents or their families) to the Hoosier state.

Nelson will be joined in-studio by two author/historians who have written about some of the POTUS visits:

  • Ray Boomhower of the Indiana Historical Society, the editor of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History magazine. An upcoming issue of Traces will describe future president FDR's pivotal visit to French Lick. (The article was written by Jim Fadely, an expert on the resort hotel and a popular guest on previous Hoosier History Live! shows.) In previous issues of Traces, Ray has written about other presidential visits; they include a scandal that unfolded in 1907 when cocktails were served at a soiree Teddy Roosevelt attended at the Indianapolis mansion of his vice president, Charles Fairbanks.
  • And Al Hunter, a columnist for The Weekly View newspaper that serves the eastside of Indy and Greenfield. Al's mother was a patient at the IU Medical Center just a few rooms away from Julie Nixon Eisenhower when her father visited during the final year of his presidency. Al notes that, as vice president, Richard Nixon had visited Indy in connection with another hospital. Nixon came for the ground-breaking of Community Hospital (now known as Community East) in 1954.

Of course, Benjamin Harrison, the only president elected from Indiana, made several visits to his home state after he won the country's top office in 1888.

A stereoview shows President Teddy Roosevelt addressing the crowd in Tipton, Ind., in 1902. Image provided by Al Hunter.Abe Lincoln, who lived in southern Indiana from ages 7 to 21, spoke from the balcony of the Bates House in downtown Indy as he traveled in February 1861 from Springfield, Ill., to the nation's capital for his inaugural. His talk touched on the need to preserve the Union.

During the Centennial celebrations in 1916 of Indiana's statehood, Woodrow Wilson attended a parade on Monument Circle and spoke at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Our guest Al Hunter notes that two years earlier, when Wilson was president of Princeton, he visited Butler University, which then was located in Irvington.

Both Roosevelts - Teddy and FDR - also made multiple visits to the Hoosier state. In 1902, Teddy, who was suffering from a serious injury to his leg, spoke in Tipton and Noblesville during train stops. While in Indianapolis later on that trip, he was rushed to St. Vincent Hospital for treatment.

FDR visited Vincennes for the dedication of the George Rogers Clark Memorial in the 1930s. And in 1936, he opened the Indiana State Fair.

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