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The Passenger Pigeon was larger than a Mourning Dove and had a body size similar to a large Rock Pigeon. The average weight of these pigeons was 340-400 grams (12-14 oz) and, per John James Audubon's account, length was 42 cm (16.5 in) in males and 38 cm (15 in) in females. The Passenger Pigeon had a bluish gray head and rump, slate gray back, and a wine red breast. The male had black streaks on the scapulars and wing coverts and patches of pinkish iridescence at the sides of the neck changed in color to a shining metallic bronze, green, and purple at the back of the neck in various lights. Female and immature birds were similar marked but with duller gray on the back, a lighter rose breast and much less iridescent necks. The tail was extremely long at 20–23 cm (8–9 in) and gray to blackish with a white edge.

During summer, Passenger Pigeons lived in forest habitats throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains from eastern and central Canada to the northeast United States. In the winters, they migrated to the southern U.S. and occasionally to Mexico and Cuba.

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