Human Ecology

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 389–410 | Cite as

Human-wildlife competition and the passenger pigeon: Population growth from system destabilization

  • Thomas W. Neumann

Abstract

The relatively small number of passenger pigeon bones found in prehistoric sites in the eastern United States is at variance with the tremendous population recorded between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries: It is argued that, prior to European contact, the population of passenger pigeons was small due to human-wildlife competition over tree nuts. This competition restricted the pigeon's access to food and limited its prehistoric population. When this competitive network was disrupted by European colonization, the availability of food for the pigeon increased. The enormous population that then emerged represents an outbreak population precipitated by enrichment in food and space. The structure of the prehistoric food web in the forests of the eastern United States is diagrammed, and the process leading to the growth of the passenger pigeon population described.

Key words

competition prehistoric subsistence passenger pigeon system enrichment eastern United States 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

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  • Thomas W. Neumann

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