In May 1916, a devastating wildfire swept through the breeding grounds of the Heath Hen. The following year, when they did a consensus, they only found 150 birds and through bad luck, the majority of the survivors were male. Over the next few years, inbreeding and diseases carried by domestic poultry took a tool and by 1927 only 13 birds remained, then two in 1928 and then in the spring of 1929, only a single survivor came to the blind that biologists had set up at the mating grounds to track the population.
That last male, named Booming Ben, died spending his last few days crying out for a female that never came. There was an entire issue of the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette dedicated to Ben, writing:
“There is no survivor, there is no future, there is no life to be recreated in this form again. We are looking upon the uttermost finality which can be written, glimpsing the darkness which will not know another ray of light.”