I read a sci-fi short story in an anthology.

The story featured a college professor who realized time was unravelling when the skies darkened with passenger pigeons.

This was in the early seventies and the stories were mind-blowing for a ten-year-old.

  • 2
    First asked about ten years ago! Commented Feb 24 at 7:33
  • 2
    @Giacomo1968 we don't close story id questions as duplicates unless the OP agrees that their question is indeed a duplicate. Commented Feb 24 at 20:32
  • 1
    Don, if the question has been answered to your satisfaction, you can "accept" the answer of your choice by clicking on the check mark next to it. On the other hand, if "Sidewise in Time" is not the story you were looking for, you should post a comment to that effect (and maybe tell us how it differs from your story) and we will continue the search.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 25 at 1:18

3 Answers 3


"Sidewise in Time", a novella by Murray Leinster which was also the answer to the question A story about reality breaking down as timelines cross in increasing numbers; first published in Astounding Stories, June 1934, available at the Internet Archive. You may have read it in one of these compilations.

From the Wikipedia plot summary:

Professor Minott is a mathematician at Robinson College in Fredericksburg, Virginia who has determined that an apocalyptic cataclysm is fast approaching that could destroy the entire universe. The cataclysm manifests itself on June 5, 1935 (one year in the future of the story's original publication) when sections of the Earth's surface begin changing places with their counterparts in alternate timelines. A Roman legion from a timeline where the Roman Empire never fell appears on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Viking longships from a timeline where the Vikings settled North America raid a seaport in Massachusetts. A traveling salesman from Louisville, Kentucky, whose van bears a commercial logo including Uncle Sam with the Stars and Stripes, finds himself in trouble with the law when he travels into an area where the South won the American Civil War. A ferry approaching San Francisco finds the flag of Tsarist Russia flying from a grim fortress dominating the city.

Here is the part about the passenger pigeons:

The sky was dark with birds above him. A flock four miles wide and three miles long made lights necessary in the village. The air was filled with the sound of wings. The passenger pigeon had returned to a continent from which it had been absent for almost fifty years.


Sidewise in Time by Murray Leinster, I think, which features a professor who leads a group of students through a series of transitions between alternate histories.

This article mentions the pigeons

In Murray Leinster's Sidewise in Time where parts of alternative histories shift into our own reality a boy asks his grandfather what the millions of birds flying over them are and after shooting a few the grandfather discovers them to be the extinct Passenger Pigeon. The flock is said to be so large that its flight overhead lasts for hours. At the end of the short story a billion and a half of the birds remain in North America.

It's been collected many times - you may have read it in Before the Golden Age


In the story Sidewise in Time by Murray Leinster time unravels and passenger pigeons appear.

The size of each flock was to be measured not in feet or yards, but in miles of front.


"It's a wild pigeon! What they used to call passenger pigeons! Back in '78 there were these birds by billions."

When the time oscillations stop, some segments of the alternate realities remain. One of them is the passenger pigeons.

There is a professor in the story, but he is not the one who sees the passenger pigeons.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.