And to think we all believed they were extinct.
Passenger pigeons, that is. Millions of them once lived all over North America, but thanks to people hunting them, eating them, and destroying their forest homes like the greedy top-of-the-food-chain predators we sometimes are, the last of them disappeared around a hundred years ago.
At least that's what we were taught in elementary school.
But now, the truth about what really happened to the passenger pigeon has been revealed. It was one of those happy accidents, a serendipitous sighting that casts new light on the unhappy fate of these innocent birds. The truth has been hidden since the days, a century ago, when the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers made it possible for human beings to take to the skies.
My partner, passing through New York on his way home from an overseas trip, spotted a pigeon near his boarding gate at JFK International Airport. It seemed to be waiting for a flight just like everybody else, so he immediately identified it as a passenger pigeon.
It wasn't carrying anything, though, which is what really solves the mystery of its disappearance. The passenger pigeon didn't really go extinct. Like so many other unwary travelers, it's just been hanging around the airport waiting for its luggage.