The most astonishing thing occurred a few weeks ago, and yet hardly anybody noticed. All at once, every Rock Dove in North and South America suddenly disappeared. Gone. There are no more Rock Doves perched on our telephone wires, none cooing in our grand plazas, and none menacing our freshly washed cars. This ubiquitous super species, capable of adapting to even the grimiest, most contaminated urban areas, finally met a force it could not out-compete.
Please observe a moment of silence for the Rock Dove.
Why did no one notice this mass vanishing act. We suspect it is because this birdâ€™s highly lucrative niche was not left vacant for a second. At the very moment of disappearance, every last dove was replaced by a new bird. This so-called Rock Pigeon looks and acts suspiciously like our old friends, right down to the distinctive black, white, and smoke gray variegated plumage and utter indifference to humans. Will the Rock Pigeon prove a kinder, gentler ruler of our cities, or are our windshields still in danger?
Yes, it is true. The common name of Columba livia has been officially changed from Rock Dove to Rock Pigeon. This taxonomic transformation was determined by the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) as published in their A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th Edition (with 44th Supplement, 2003). This checklist is the basis for the ABA checklist, so any AOU change affects the entire North American birding community!
Why did the AOU do it? This change was a response to the 1992 renaming of the Rock Dove by the British Ornithologist’s Union. Why did they do it? I’m not sure I understand completely. I believe it has something to do with calling a dove a dove and a pigeon a pigeon. They also moved all New World pigeons from Columba to a separate genus, Patagioenas. However, it doesn’t appear that Columba livia made the cut in that regard. The taxonomic legerdemain may confuse us, but it doesn’t bother the pigeons. Call them what you will; they’re not going anywhere.
I live on a small farm in a country town in North Georgia, USA. I hope my idea and asking you for your insight doesn’t go against any of your values as I am a very compassionate animal lover. However, I am in the planning stages (still an idea) of starting a home-based business on my farm of Dove releases for funerals and special occassions. The only time I ever experienced this was at my mother-in-laws funeral several years ago and it gave us a great deal of peace and an awesome last memory of her. In fact, it still does. I want to fit within all the regulations of a respectable, quality, professional business where the care and welfare of the birds is of utmost importance. I want that to be noticeable to those people who come in contact with me and my birds and build a high reputation of for myself and the birds in my community. In researching this idea, I have found other businesses like this on the internet. The concern is that I am not finding a great deal of information on exact specifications of things like how to build the proper housing for them, what materials should be in the bottom? of the pens in the event that a disease needs to be completely destroyed, thus cleaning the pen from top to bottom, what if one dove “falls in love” with a bird in an adjacent pen and how to tell, how to keep them from being inbred, etc. I have not found any information on the challenges or “behind the scenes’-the downside,if you will, of a business like this. Also, from a bird watchers perspective, is this some form of cruelty to the birds by them not being in the wild? Looking at your pictures of Rock Pigeons, I am not seeing any “white” birds…just another question in my mind. I guess I am really looking for all considerations regarding this quest so that I make a good decision for myself and the birds. I want to keep them in their element and happy,too. After going through your entire website, which I found the link on the Avian Welfare Coalition website, I thought I would get your professional insight on any ideas or experience you might have regarding these concerns of mine. I will appreciate any and all comments or references you might have to offer me in this area. Thank you in advance for your perspective. Sincerely, Sandra
To be honest, Sandra, most bird watchers are against keeping birds in cages. We certainly are at 10,000 Birds.
A large community of pigeon fanciers and breeders exists across the world. The doves you describe are a certain breed of rock pigeon. If any bird can be kept in a way that is ethical and beneficial, it’s probably a rock pigeon.