The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback has set ambitious goals to hatch the first generation of new Passenger Pigeons before 2025 and begin trial wild releases in the following 15 years. Below is our interactive roadmap revealing our timelines of past work and future work necessary to achieve these goals including our current status of each project phase.
With the help of several partners, a series of significant milestones have been achieved for the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback, Revive & Restore’s longest running project. Passenger Pigeon de-extinction has fueled global dialogue on developing de-extinction as a conservation tool; our program has been used as a case study by independent researchers in many publications. The partnerships and insights gained through our flagship project’s progress has set the stage for rapid developments for Heath Hen de-extinction and discussions for building other avian projects.
Learn about our Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 highlights and current status below:
Phase 1 – Since 2012, through our collaborative partnership with the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab, we have:
- Sequenced DNA from 37 Passenger Pigeons, including 2 whole genomes;
- Sequenced, assembled, and publicly released a high quality reference genome for the Band-tailed Pigeon;
- Made valuable scientific discoveries of the species’ evolution and population genomics.
Not only have we discovered that the Passenger Pigeon was a well adapted, resilient, and ancient bird, we have identified some of the first genes that may help revive the species.
In 2017, we welcome aboard a new project partner to sequence and research more genomes for Passenger Pigeon de-extinction, the Center for Genome Architecture at Rice University’s Baylor College of Medicine.
Phase 2 – Beginning Fall 2017, project lead Ben Novak is beginning the first experiments to genetically engineer pigeons, using Domestic Rock Pigeons as a model to begin testing the feasibility of editing genomes of living birds for the extinct Passenger Pigeon’s traits.
Our next Phase 2 goal is to raise money to begin developing germ-line transmission, the most efficient reproductive technique for creating genome-edited birds, for pigeons. With adequate support, our project partner Crystal Bioscience, a world leader in avian biotechnologies, may begin initial experiments with Domestic Rock Pigeons. Success with Rock Pigeons will lay the foundation needed to work with Band-tailed Pigeons.
Phase 3 – Novak’s master’s thesis analyzed the ecological niche of the Passenger Pigeon. His research, completed in summer 2016, determined that the Passenger Pigeon was the ecosystem engineer of eastern North American forests. New ecological studies important for Passenger Pigeon restoration are underway.
Our Partners at the Bronx Zoo recently completed research of Band-tailed Pigeon captive breeding, examining optimal care conditions and studying the development of chicks to adulthood. This is invaluable data for Passenger Pigeon captive breeding work.
In July 2017, project collaborator Holland Shaw began raising Revive & Restore’s small Band-tailed Pigeon flock at his home in Massachusetts, the first step in growing our flock to raise future revived Passenger Pigeons.
For more detail of the milestones accomplished to date and our future steps for Passenger Pigeon de-extinction, scroll over the icons on the project roadmap below showing the timelines of different research elements of the programs three phases.