(This post in in response to Wednesday’s Post, Chidiya Udd)
Turns out, our little bird problem might be our own doing. Pigeons were the first birds to be domesticated. There is evidence of domestication of pigeons by 4500 BC (around the time that the wheel was invented).
A rock pigeon’s natural habitat is cliffs and mountains (hence its name). But these pigeons were bred to work with humans- whether for food, or transport, or just fashion. By breeding, we mean that a certain kind of pigeon was selected over others for procreation. So if for example, people wanted bigger and fatter pigeons to eat, they chose the bigger and fatter ones among the current pigeons they had and let them reproduce, copiously. Eventually, the number of big, fat, pigeons outnumbered the small, lean ones. Many years later, if people forgot their history, they just assumed that big and fat was the normal tendency for a pigeon.
Pigeons were bred, and brought out of their natural habitats and taken to distant lands for reasons mentioned above. This article mentions six obstacles or tests that determine whether a certain animal can be domesticated or not. These obstacles are:
1. A diet not easily supplied by humans.
2. Slow growth rate and long birth spacing
3. Nasty disposition
4. Reluctance to breed in captivity.
5. Lack of follow-the-leader dominance hierarchies
6. Tendency to panic in enclosures or when faced with predators.
Pigeons are gregarious, granivorous (feed on grains), live in holes on cliffs (prefer enclosures) and within a month of birth are ready to fly without their parents. Pigeons clear the six parameters with flying colours. This is what the breeding space looked like in 65 AD. They really do love enclosed spaces:
Tall buildings seem to be the new age rocks and cliffs. There is an entire book on how pigeons got to inhabit almost all cities in the world. These birds are not as mundane as we assume them to be. (Do check out the link of the book for the author’s interview).
Interesting fact: Pigeons were used for transport purposes till as late as 2006. Guess which was the last place to use them? The police force in Orrisa, India. :-p