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Rock Pigeons (Rock Doves)


'Pigeon' originally referred to any young bird, and comes from the Latin pipire, ... migration, formed large flocks that reportedly took several days to pass a ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Rock Pigeons (Rock Doves)

Rock Pigeons (Rock Doves)
  • Kingdom Animalia
  • Phylum Chordata
  • Class Aves
  • Order Columbiformes
  • Family Columbidae
  • Genus Columba
  • Species Columba livia

Name Origin
  • Pigeon originally referred to any young bird,
    and comes from the Latin pipire, to chirp or
  • A pigeon is a person whos easily duped or a
  • To pigeon someone is to take advantage of his
    or her gullible nature
  • A stool pigeon is nobodys friend
  • Dove may spring from the Old English word for
    dive, however it came to be known to represent
    our hopes for our best selves

  • Each bird has
  • A slate gray body
  • Dark bands on the wings
  • A white patch above the tail
  • Iridescent green and purple sheen on the neck
  • Hot pink feet
  • Orange eyes
  • The adult female is almost identical to the male,
    but the iridescence on the neck is less intense
    and more restricted to the rear and sides
  • Young birds show little lustre and are duller

World Distribution of the Rock Pigeon
Pigeon Introduction
  • In 1604, the Sieur de Monts and his navigator,
    Samuel de Champlain set off to North America with
    high hopes - a monopoly on fur trade and a
    boatful of colonists
  • They landed on the small island of St. Croix
    located at the mouth of the St. Croix River
    between Maine and Canada. The colony failed
  • Before the next cold season, the colonists moved
    to Port Royal, near Nova Scotia
  • However, as their luck was about to run out a
    ship called the Jonas arrived with fresh
    supplies, including alcohol and pigeons

Samuel de Champlain
  • During the years when Champlain was mapping North
    Americas east coast, he noticed that pigeons had
    dispersed and were successfully reproducing
  • In his native France, nobles had the right to own
    a dovecote (e.g. pigeon house or coupe)
  • At times more than a million birds flew over the
    fields, skimming for choice grain that might have
    fallen to the ground
  • Meanwhile pigeon breeding picked up as a hobby
    for many of the North American gentlemen
  • Their birds were bred for plumage that curled out
    rather than in, short beaks, long legs, necks
    without feathers and good posture

Famous Pigeon Fancier
  • To date the most famous of the pigeon fanciers
    was Charles Darwin
  • His observation of these birds formed a
    foundation block of his argument for natural
    selection in On the Origin of Species
  • For this book, he watched and took notes as
    offspring from white and black pigeons produced
    slate blue chicks with black bands on their wings
  • He believed that these characteristics mirrored
    the ancestral form (originally brought to North

Charles Darwin
Food Habits
  • Pigeons typically eat grain and seeds, and will
    sometimes subsist on spilled or improperly stored
  • Pigeons also have been known to feed on garbage,
    livestock manure, insects, or other food
  • In many urban areas, feeding pigeons is
    considered a form of recreation

Mating Behavior
  • Pigeons live in groups called flocks, and show
    a strong affinity for human-built structures
  • When a male wants to court a female, he circles
    her with neck feathers inflated and tail spread
    out while by bowing and cooing
  • These birds mate for life, however, whenever one
    dies the survivor will attempt to find another
  • Pigeons breed throughout the year, and can raise
    four to five broods annually, depending on
    climate and geographic location

Offspring and Nest Habits
  • Their nests consist of twigs, leaves, and a few
    feathers located most anywhere, including
    window ledges, behind signs, and under bridges
  • Each parent takes turns incubating the clutch of
    one or two white eggs for 16-19 days
  • Both parents feed their newly hatched young
    (squabs) with crop milk, a secretion from the
    lining of the crop (a saclike food storage
    extension of the esophagus, unique to birds)
  • The young can start flying at four to six weeks
    of age, although they remain dependent on their
    parents for as long as the adults can tolerate

Homing Pigeons (domesticated)
  • Homing Pigeons are a variety of Rock Pigeon bred
    specifically to find locations from great
  • Caesar was the first documented to use Homing
    Pigeons (Columba livia domestica) to carry vital
    messages, but this interest did not surge until
  • Even though communication systems had improved,
    Homing Pigeons were used during WWI and II
  • Competition flights can exceed 1800 km

Cities Famous for their Pigeons
  • Stradun Dubrovnik
  • Piccadilly Gardens Manchester
  • Richard J Daley Center Chicago
  • Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul
  • George Square Glasgow
  • Martin Place Sydney
  • Trafalgar Square - London

Aesthetic Damage
  • Called a feathered rat by some, the Rock Pigeon
    is quite popular amongst some people
  • One Rock Pigeon creates 25 lbs of excrement per
    year, bombarding streets and buildings with waste
  • However, Rock Pigeons also clean streets by
    consuming bread, popcorn, and leftover human
  • Pigeons located around airports can also be a
    threat to human safety because of potential
    bird-aircraft collisions, and are considered a
    medium priority hazard to jet aircraft by the US
    Air Force.

A Vector of Disease
  • Rock Pigeons may carry and spread diseases to
    people and livestock through their droppings.
    They are known to carry or transmit pigeon
    ornithosis, encephalitis, Newcastle disease,
    cryptococcosis, toxoplasmosis, salmonella food
    poisoning, and several other diseases.
  • The ectoparasites of pigeons include various
    species of fleas, lice, mites, ticks, and other
    biting insects, some of which readily bite
    people. Some insects that inhabit the nests of
    pigeons are also fabric pests and/or pantry
    pests. The northern fowl mite found on pigeons is
    an important poultry pest.
  • Rock pigeons may pass histoplasmosis (a fungal
    disease of the lungs) and other diseases through
    their feces to other birds and humans.

Irony in England
  • Estimates suggest that to clear pigeon droppings
    from a building a few stories high may cost
    anything up to 1,000 Pounds a week just for the
    scaffolding to give pest controllers access to
    the ledges and windowsills where the birds roost
    or nest. Pigeons often return again, damaging
    the same areas.
  • The ultimate irony of pigeon costs occurs in
    Trafalgar Square. The Department of the
    Environment awards licenses to vendors that
    permit them to sell pigeon feed to tourists at 20
    pence a packet. Westminster City Council has to
    employ three men, working a 16-hour shift over a
    seven-day period, together with a pedestrian
    vehicle to wash pigeon droppings from the paved
    area of Trafalgar Square three times a week - at
    a cost of 38,725 Pounds each year.

Native Pigeons of North America
  • Many native species of pigeons occur in North
  • The most widespread of these is the Mourning Dove
    (Zenaidura macroura), named after its loud,
    soulful cooings. This species occurs widely south
    of the boreal forest. The Mourning Dove is
    migratory in the northern parts of its range,
    although suburban birds can manage to survive the
    winter if they have access to dependable food at

Mourning Dove
Winter only (blue), summer only (light green),
and year-round (dark green) range
  • All other native pigeons are relatively southern
    in their distribution. These include
  • Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata)
  • Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina)
  • Inca Dove (Columbina inca)
  • Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris)
  • Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti)
  • Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana)
  • White-crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala)
  • White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)
  • White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

Band-tailed Pigeon
Common Ground Dove
Inca Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Red-billed Pigeon
Ruddy Quail-Dove
White-crowned Pigeon
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
  • Tending and breeding gave Rock Pigeons the
    enhanced ability to coexist with humans in an
    urban environment
  • Sadly though, other members within this bird
    order failed to breed themselves into abundance
    when faced with buildings and human influence,
    including the Dodo and Passenger Pigeon

Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)
Characteristics wt. est. 30 lbs., flightless,
face unfeathered, good runner, probably
  • First encounter with Europeans was likely in the
    late 1500s when Portuguese merchants stopped to
    replenish provisions.
  • Extinct in less than 100 years
  • Remaining evidence confined to a few bone
    fragments, bill, skull and a few feathers.
  • Was extinction prone due to its large size,
    inability to fly, low reproductive rate, and
    gullible social behavior

Passenger Pigeons
  • Passenger Pigeons (Ectopostes migratorius) were
    once the most common bird in North America
  • They bred in enormous colonies, and during
    migration, formed large flocks that reportedly
    took several days to pass a fixed point and
    blocked the sunlight
  • It is estimated that up to five billion Passenger
    Pigeons were still around when the Europeans
  • Many citizens killed these birds for food and

Causes of Decline
  • When Americans started their westward expansion,
    a large number of eastern chestnut and oak trees
    were removed to make way for farms, homesteads,
    and towns
  • These eastern chestnut and oak trees were the
    Passenger Pigeons main source of food
  • Farmers believed the pigeons to be a nuisance
    species to crops, and persecuted them heavily

  • With the extension of the railroad during the
    1850s, pigeons could be easily shipped to city
    markets in the Eastern U.S.
  • This greatly increased the losses due to hunting
  • In combination, their need for social behavior,
    loss of habitat, hunting for food and nuisance
    removal led to the demise of the species

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