Martha (c.1885—September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo) was the last known living Passenger Pigeon; she was named “Martha” in honor of Martha Washington.
By November 1907, Martha and her two male companions at the Cincinnati Zoo were the only known surviving Passenger Pigeons after four captive males in Milwaukee died during the winter. One of the Cincinnati males died in April 1909, followed by the remaining male on July 10, 1910. Martha soon became a celebrity due to her status as an endling, and offers of a $1000 reward for finding a mate for Martha brought even more visitors to see her. Several years before her death Martha suffered an apoplectic stroke, leaving her weakened; the zoo built a lower roost for her as she could no longer reach her old one. Martha died at 1 p.m. on September 1, 1914 of old age. Her body was found lifeless on her cage’s floor. Depending on the source, Martha was either 17, 18, 19, 20, 27, 28, or 29 years old at the time of her death, although 29 is the generally accepted figure.
Martha has become a symbol of the threat of extinction. She was used at the Zoological Society of San Diego’s 1966 Golden Jubilee Conservation Conference as a mascot to emphasize the need for conservation. A Harvard historian has described Martha’s remains as “an organic monument, biologically continuous with the living bird she commemorates, the embodiment of extinction itself.” Many authors writing about extinction have made what one described as a “strange pilgrimage” to see her remains.