The Last Heath Hen

This is a true story.  A story I wanted to share with you in my own words.

Heath is an Old World term for an extended, uncultivated open space covered with herbage and low bushes. The colonial landscape of the early 18th century from Massachusetts to the Carolinas  had heaths large enough to provide homes for  heath hens. This bird was so plentiful that it was a staple food for indentured laborers in coastal New England.

Example of a heath

exampl of a heath

There were a few reasons why the population of heath hens started to decline.  I won’t go into that here.  By the 1870’s the only heath hens left were on Martha’s Vineyard.


By 1927 there were only a dozen or so heath hens left.  After December 28th, 1928 there was only one heath hen, a male.  The islanders had named him “Booming Ben”.    For the next three years Ben showed up every spring to call out to any female hen that would listen.    He would eat corn in Farmer Green’s  field hoping to find a mate.  He waited and waited to no avail.  On March 11, 1932, Farmer Green saw Ben scurrying under a bush.  That was the last time anyone  ever saw Ben again.   He had lived a lonely solitary life booming his soothing call across the fields waiting for his true love to answer.  He died that year, alone,  the last heath hen.