From Billions to None:
The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction
From Billions to None
From Billions to None
Item#: FBT-812
Choose License:  Format: 

Running Time: 57 minutes
Grade 6 - Adult
A film by David Mrazek and Joel Greenberg
With Special Features +Study Guide
Closed Captioned • Scene Selection



"Starred Review. A brilliant account of an unparalleled conservation tragedy. Highly recommended for all audiences from junior high to graduate levels."
-Library Journal

"Stunning...An excellent program for environmental science and history classes to discuss extinction. The film's message, 'what we do makes a difference,' is brilliantly conveyed."
– School Library Journal

From Billions to None is a timely tale about our ability to alter forever the nature of the world. The extinction of the passenger pigeon was the original sin from which emerged the American Conservation Movement. The film combines a compelling cautionary tale with innovative cinematography to tell a tale that, with luck, we will never witness again in our lifetime. Its tragic narrative is sure to move environmentalists, students, and any American who appreciates our nation's natural treasures.
– Mark Madison, Ph.D., National Historian for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

From Billions to None elegantly recounts the incredible decline and extinction of the once abundant passenger pigeon at the hands of humans. The film goes on to ask, ‘Can we come to our senses and avert more loss of biodiversity?’ It is a documentary worth seeing because it is up to us.“
– John Bates, Ph.D., Associate Curator and Head, Life Sciences, Science and Education, Field Museum of Natural History

“Telling this story is important, and the style and energy used to portray the demise of the passenger pigeon is not only compelling but somehow uplifting and optimistic. It is a story everyone should know and a conversation everyone should be part of - it is a story about life, balance and hope.”
– Dave Ireland, Managing Director, ROM Biodiversity, Royal Ontario Museum

“Compelling and cautionary…Powerfully makes its point. Chilling history…filled with information and passion and does a remarkably good job of using computer-generated animation to show us what it must have been like to see a passenger pigeon flock.“
– Chicago Tribune

Recommended. This heartfelt program works as an informative retrospective on passenger pigeons and a cautionary account of extinction….Teens will be touched by the story of the demise of a species.“
– Booklist

“The passenger pigeon's demise is much more than a tale about this particular species. The bird’s extinction was an event that changed the way we thought about our nation’s treasured natural resources. Today we know that if we don’t work to protect our wildlife, it will vanish. From Billions to None is a must see for anyone who cares about the species currently facing extinction and a reminder to all of us that we do not need to accept species extinction as inevitable…that extinction begins and ends with us.”
– Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife

“Full of gorgeous cinematography…compelling and beautiful…a call to action for birders or anyone else who values the natural world.”
– BirdwatchingDaily.com

"Remarkably effective....Classroom teachers will find this film useful for helping students understand the speed with which species extinction can occur, as well as the hidden costs it imposes on both ecosystems and the human psyche. Its interdisciplinary treatment of biodiversity makes it particularly useful for introductory-level courses in environmental studies.”
– Professor Monty Hempel, Director, Center for Environmental Studies, University of Redlands



Winner, Broadcast Award
American Conservation Film Festival

Official Selection
Boston Environmental Film Festival
Cinema Verde Environmental Film and Arts Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Julien Dubque International Film Festival
Great Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Ellensburg Film Festival

Selected Screenings

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Training Center
American Ornithological Union National Conference
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
American Society for Environmental History, Annual Conference



All prices include DVD and limited PPR
• K-12 Schools, Public Libraries & Community Groups: $89
• Colleges, Government, Business: $250
• Colleges, Government, Business (with DSL): $550

From Billions to None tells the compelling, little-known story of the rapid extinction of the once abundant passenger pigeon, and explores its lessons for today with the alarming decline of many species worldwide.

These sleek and beautiful birds darkened entire skies, like nothing in existence today. Yet in a matter of decades human activity drove the species from billions to extinction.

For millennia, the passenger pigeon was the most abundant bird in North America, and likely the world. Then as its forest habitats were cut down for lumber, it was hunted to extinction both as a cheap source of protein and as targets for sport shooting. By 1912, after a nationwide search, not a single bird could be found living in the wild. The last pigeon in captivity died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Naturalist and author Joel Greenberg is the film’s guide, explaining the biology of the passenger pigeon and taking us through the birds’ tragic history. In one scene, Greenberg visits a nature preserve in Wisconsin that was once the largest ever passenger pigeon nesting site, where an estimated 136 million birds nested in an area equal in size to 37 Manhattan Islands.

Through computer animation, the film recreates the breathtaking natural phenomenon of massive flocks of passenger pigeons. One animated sequence recreates a passenger pigeon flock estimated by John James Audubon to be at least one billion birds. In 1813, while in Kentucky, Audubon wrote, “The light of the noonday was obscured as by an eclipse. The pigeons passed in undiminished number, and continued to do so for three days.”

The film briefly explores the De-Extinction movement, a controversial attempt to bring back extinct species, and features an interview with the young scientist who has been tasked to bring back the lost bird.

The film also highlights scientists like Dr. Boris Worm at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, whose research is raising alarm about other species, including sharks. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are currently threatened with extinction due to overfishing.

“We’re doing the same thing to our children and our grandchildren that our ancestors did to us,” concludes David Blockstein, Senior Scientist at the National Council for Science and the Environment, “But we don’t have the same excuse of ignorance.”

Joel Greenberg is a naturalist and author of several books, including A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (Bloomsbury, 2014). He is a research associate at the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.


• Behind the Scenes: A Bird’s Eye View, The Sound of Billions, Making “Pigeon Pie”
• Deleted Scene: Warren Woods
• Extras: A Special Specimen, From Chikagou to Chicago, Prairie Tours with Joel


An extensive 47 page study guide is available for free download for use with the film, aligned with middle and high school curriculum standards.