Amy Whitehead's Research

the ecological musings of a conservation biologist

Wildlife Wednesday: Feral Pigeon

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Rock pigeon

So it’s been quite a while since my last “weekly” Wildlife Wednesday post.  I’m blaming it on the excessive amount of travelling I’ve been doing (16 flights in 2.5 months!) but really it’s mostly laziness (with a dash of busy-ness and general craziness).  But on my travels about the place, I’ve been taking pictures of some of the things I’ve been seeing along the way. One thing that struck me was how often I was seeing the same species over and over again in completely different parts of the world.  Some of them have been moved around by people, some have made the journey by themselves.

Feral pigeons (Columba livia) are one of those cosmopolitan species that seem to be in every city you visit.  Descended from domesticated rock doves, pigeons have become well established in cities where the ledges of buildings and bridges make great substitutes for their natural roosting habitat on cliffs.  Pigeons generally get a pretty bad wrap, with “avian rats” and charming monikers used to describe them. And to be fair, some pigeons are pretty nasty looking – lice-infested, missing toes and feathers or some weird motley hybrid. But they can also be quite pretty birds, with a beautiful iridescent green sheen around the back of the neck.

In some parts of the world, feral pigeons are doing their bit for threatened species conservation by offering themselves up as prey (although probably not knowingly or willingly).  Peregrine falcons are making a comeback in some urban centres, where tall buildings provide cliff-like nesting habitat and flocks of feral pigeons provide dinner.  It was pretty cool to be able to watch a pair of peregrine falcons going about their business next to the London Eye thanks to the RSPB (& someone dressed as a hedgehog!).  Urban ecology at its best.

RSPB hedgehog

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