Skip to main content


Pilgrims of the Air

By: John Wilson Foster (Author)

Pilgrims of the Air Book Cover

Buy at Amazon UK Buy at Amazon US

Year: 2014
Format: Hardback


Pilgrims of the Air was published in the UK and Ireland by Notting Hill Editions in 2014. It was published as Pilgrims of the Air: The Passing of the Passenger Pigeons in the U.S.A by New York Review Books in 2017.

This is a story of a scarcely credible abundance, of flocks of birds so vast they made the sky invisible. It is also a story, almost as difficult to credit, of a collapse into extinction so startling to the inhabitants of the New World as to provoke a mystery. In the fate of the North American passenger pigeon we can read much of the story of wild America – the astonishment that accompanied its discovery, the allure of its natural 'productions', the ruthless exploitation of its 'commodities' and the ultimate betrayal of its peculiar genius. And in the bird's fate can be read, too, the essential vulnerability of species, the unpredictable passage of life itself.

"John Wilson Foster's new book is a gem in every sense: small but perfect in the hand, elegantly written and full of evocative, deeply researched interest, both in the bird and American social history. Roaming in millions across the virgin forests of North America, sometimes blotting out the sky, the passenger pigeon belonged to a land – and its rivers and ocean – of an early and now seemingly incredible wild abundance, fatally eroded by servicing the spread of humankind."  Michael Viney Irish Times

"Every page of this book is lit by a sense of wonder." Michael Longley

"Foster has produced one of the loveliest of literary meditations on the pigeon and its fate". Rick Wright, Birding Magazine