Birds are a source of amusement for us. They fly in the air, have brighten colours that attract them and they produce varieties of sounds that make our environment beautiful. Birds have a number of adaptations that enable them to survive in different types of habitats. They are cosmopolitan and are also beneficial to the human beings in a number of ways. Pigeon is one such bird that’s not only beautiful in its look but is also a sign of peace. Its family is Columbidae. Pigeons and doves are responsible for comprising the family Columbidae with the order Columbiformes. There are about 300 species of passerines are understood. In general speaking the doves and pigeons are used together for describing some of the birds. Columbidae is present throughout the world however, the significant species exist in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. The young pigeons are called as squabs.
Pigeons possess stout bodies with short necks, having slender bills and fleshy cere. The common species of pigeon generally available in the localities is the feral Rock Pigeon. Pigeons like to make their nests with the support of sticks and other debris which might be set on the trees, ground and on the spaces of buildings based upon the species. Pigeons lay one or two eggs at a time and the parents take part in caring the young ones that leave the nest after 7 to 28 days after their birth. Pigeons feed on seeds, fruits and plants. Like other birds pigeons also produce crop milk that’s secreted from the sloughing of fluid filled cells lining the crop. Both males and females have the ability to produce the harvest milk to nourishing the young ones.
Pigeons differ in body size according to the species. The largest species of pigeons would be the crowned pigeons of New Guinea that are about the size of a turkey weighing approximately 2-4 kilograms. The smallest species are the ground doves of the genus Columbina which are nearly equivalent to the size of the house sparrow and weighing about 22 grams. Taxonomically the smaller species are called as doves and the larger ones are called pigeons and there are no distinguishing features between the two. Pigeons have short bills and short legs. Head is also small with a compact body. Pigeons have big wings with powerful wing muscles comprising about 31-40percent of the total body weight. They are amongst the strongest flying birds. The plumage of the family is also changeable. The species that feed on seeds are called as granivorous species and they have dull plumage while the species feeding on fruits are known as frugivorous and they’re brightly coloured. Pigeons may be sexually monochromatic or dichromatic. Apart from the bright colours pigeons also bear seen patterns in addition to other ornamentations. Pigeons lack gall bladder.
Distribution and Habitat
Pigeons are found all over the world except the Sahara desert, Antarctica, its surrounding islands and the high Arctic. The pigeon colonies can easily be found around the major oceanic islands including Polynesia and Chatham islands in the Pacific, Mauritius, Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The pigeons have the ability to survive every sort of habitat available on earth. The largest number of species is found in the tropical forests and the woodlands where are adapted to the arboreal, terrestrial and semi-terrestrial habitats. Pigeon species are also available in the temperate forests, savannas, grasslands, deserts, mangrove forests as well as the barren lands. Some species have long natural ranges also. The largest range for any species of pigeon is that of the Rock pigeon. Rock pigeon species is naturally distributed from Britain and Ireland to northern Africa, across Europe, Arabia, Orlando Animal Removal, Central Asia, India, the Himalayas and up into China and Mongolia. Domestication has a great role in the spread of this species. Currently the species is located across major regions of North America, Japan and Australia. Some species have also changed their natural habitats because of the activities of human beings too.
Fruits and seeds are the major food components of pigeons. The family can be divided into the seed eating members or the granivorous species coming under the subfamily Columbinae and those which prefer to feed on the fruits or the frugivorous species forming the other four subfamilies. Granivorous species especially feed on the seeds present on the ground and the frugivorous species feeding on fruits tend to feed on the trees. Both types of species have distinct morphological adaptations that could help in identifying the two. Gizzard walls are thick in the granivorous species while it’s thin in the frugivorous species. Frugivorous species have short intestines while the seed eating species have long intestines. Frugivores are capable of clinging on the branches to reach the fruits. Aside from seeds and fruits species also take other type of materials also as a part of food. Some species especially the quail doves and ground doves also feed on worms and insects. Atoll Fruit dove is specialized for feeding on insects and reptiles as part of its food. Some species such as the Orange dove, White crowned pigeons feed on snails, insects and moths.
The fossil records for the pigeon family is also quite limited and only one can predict that they evolved from parrot like birds on the basis of their feeding habits. The family is categorized into five subfamilies but this demarcation is inappropriate. The DNA sequencing of the members of the pigeon family also show variations among the members and supply the clue about the inappropriate classification of the family.
Pigeon and doves are consumed as food especially the stronger breast muscles would be the perfect source of meat. They are relished by the people across the globe. In Europe the Wood pigeon is the game bird and aids in earning a good sum of money. The Rock pigeon which is basically domesticated for meat is now available in various breeds today which enhance its meat value. The Passenger pigeon has become extinct today as it was hunted by the humans for its meat on greater scale. The pigeons also have played a major role during the World War I and the II since the pigeons were decorated with the Dickin Medal for those people who have contributed their lives for the war. Pigeons are also considered sacred in the Bible as they are the symbols of Holy Ghost in the New Testament and were also used as offerings in the olden days of the Bible. They are also used as the symbol of closing assistance of the prophet from the Islam.
Pigeons and doves have benefited human beings since time immemorial. Some species have come on the verge of extinction because of immense shooting. Two species of pigeons including the Dodo and the Passenger pigeons have become extinct now because of mass shooting. About 59 species of pigeons and dove are under the category of endangered species. The Polynesian ground dove is an exceptionally critically endangered species. A variety of schemes are under progress to save these endangered species from extinction.