Passenger Pigeon Dung
If you've ever been pooped on by a bird, you know it's no fun. But what if copious amounts of bird poop rained down upon you from the skies? That disgusting scenario likely happened to more than a few North Americans during the passenger pigeon heyday.
Billions of passenger pigeons existed in North America for hundreds of years before their sudden extinction in the wild around 1900. That's a lot of birds. Not only were they so numerous, but the pigeons lived together in a small number of enormous flocks of 1 billion or more. To help you picture it, in 1813 ornithologist John James Audubon rode 55 miles (88 kilometers) in one day, while a flock of the pigeons flew overhead. Audubon reported that the entire time he rode, the sky was a gray sea of birds from one end of the horizon to the other [source: Sullivan].
There are actually many reports from the passenger pigeon heyday of skies that were dark with birds. Other records note how the birds piled on top of each other on tree branches when they roosted in the winter, sometimes snapping the tree limbs off. In spring when they nested, as many as 500 might set up house in a single tree. Their dung would smother the tree trunks, often killing the trees. People said the smell of the pigeons and their droppings was horrendous.
With numbers like those, how in the world did these pigeons die out? Once people started building all over, the birds didn't have a whole continent to roam freely. Plus, they were hunted hard in the 1800s [source: Sullivan].
Author's Note: 10 Times It Has Rained Something Other Than Water
I have never seen anything but rain fall from the sky. Well, that's not quite accurate. I've seen hail come down, and snow. It might be fun to watch a hay shower, assuming it didn't result in several hours of raking afterward, but I would not want to see any of the others. I can't decide which of these 10 would be the worst. I'd probably say the spiders or the passenger pigeon poop.
More Great Links
- American Journal of Microscopy, and Popular Science. June 1876. (Oct 28, 2015) https://archive.org/stream/americanjournal163unkngoog#page/n96/mode/2up
- Bartram, Jen. "Is that ... HAY falling from the sky?" The Weather Network. June 24, 2014. (Oct. 30, 2015) http://www.theweathernetwork.com/uk/news/articles/is-that-hay-falling-from-the-sky/30164/
- Bellows, Alan. "America Warned Hiroshima And Nagasaki Citizens." Damn Interesting. Aug. 6, 2015. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.damninteresting.com/ww2-america-warned-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-citizens/
- Crew, Bec. "The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit." Scientific American. Dec. 1, 2014. (Oct. 26, 2015) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/the-great-kentucky-meat-shower-mystery-unwound-by-projectile-vulture-vomit/
- Dictionary. "Yellow Rain." (Oct. 27, 2015) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/yellow-rain
- Ians, Pathanamthitta. "'Red rain' in Kerala again?" May 21, 2012. (Oct. 29, 2015) http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/red-rain-in-kerala-again/story-aUj19JoTA3TtFmeZf3CabJ.html
- Ingliss-Arkell, Esther. "Was This Mysterious "Yellow Rain" a Chemical Weapon or Bee Poop?" i09. March 11, 2015. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://io9.com/was-this-mysterious-yellow-rain-a-chemical-weapon-or-1690722205
- Kastenbine, L.D. "The Kentucky Meat Shower." Louisville Medical News. 1876. (Oct. 28, 2015) http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015074156194;view=1up;seq=263;size=175
- McAtee, Waldo. "Showers of Organic Matter." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. May 1917. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/045/mwr-045-05-0217.pdf
- MIT Technology Review. "The Extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials." Sept. 1, 2010. (Oct. 27, 2015)
- NBC News. "More birds fall from sky — this time in Louisiana." Jan. 4, 2011. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40904491/ns/us_news-environment/t/more-birds-fall-sky-time-louisiana/
- New Scientist. "Raining ants." July 26, 1997. (Oct. 27, 2015) https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15520924-900-raining-ants/
- News Corp Australia. "It's raining fish in the Northern Territory - report." Feb. 28, 2010. (Oct. 30, 2015) http://www.news.com.au/national/its-raining-fish-in-the-northern-territory-report/story-e6frfkvr-1225835295781
- Nobel, Justin. "The surprising science of animal rain." Modern Farmer. March 18, 2014. (Oct. 30, 2015) http://modernfarmer.com/2014/03/things-fall-sky/
- Nuwer, Rachel. "It's Raining Spiders in Brazil." Smithsonian. Feb. 18, 2013. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/its-raining-spiders-in-brazil-19885877/?no-ist
- PBS. "Leaflets warning Japanese of Atomic Bomb, 1945." (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/truman-leaflets/
- Sanders, Robert. "Discovery of gliding ants shows wingless flight has arisen throughout the animal kingdom." UC Berkeley News. Feb. 9, 2005. (Oct. 30, 2015) http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/02/09_ants.shtml
- Schneider, Barry. "Yellow Rain." Encyclopaedia Brittanica. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.britannica.com/topic/yellow-rain
- Sullivan, Capt. Teresa. "Airmen prep battlefield dropping 120,000 leaflets." Dyess Air Force Base. July 25, 2007. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.dyess.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123062004&page=2
- Sullivan, Jerry. "The Passenger Pigeon." University of Chicago Press. April 4, 1986. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/779939pass.html
- The Library of Congress. "Can it rain frogs, fish, and other objects?" Aug. 23, 2010. (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/rainingfrogs.html
- The Living Moon. "Red Rain in Kerala, India." (Oct. 29, 2015) http://www.thelivingmoon.com/41pegasus/02files/Red_Rain_in_Kerala.html
- The Worlds of David Darling. "Red rain of Kerala." (Oct. 29, 2015) http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/R/red_rain_of_Kerala.html
You probably recognize these immediately: Andrew, Katrina, Sandy and Dorian. But when and why did we start naming hurricanes? HowStuffWorks explains.