How the Rock dove became the Feral Pigeon

Picture this: You are peacefully sitting in a park as people around you scatter grain on the ground for birds to feed on. Soon, a huge flock of pigeons appear, squabbling for the grain. Little do you know, this could lead to a serious illness, or even your death (even theirs).

Every year, thousands of people die from bird feeding, which invites pigeons, who in turn offer them a plethora of about 50 diseases ranging from simple asthma because of their feathers to more complex diseases due to interbreeding and their faeces.

If you have noticed, in ebird, (a wonderful app where you submit your bird checklists so that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can study migration patterns and populations. I highly recommend it. Must Try) besides the name of the usual rock dove, appears in brackets the name feral pigeon.

Feral, in biology, means a species which spreads without control and disrupts ecosystems and overruns native species.


In the late 17th century, when mercantilism (an idea of grab and kill, where corrupt merchants overworked slaves and made sure only they prospered and profited) became popular with rich merchants in Europe, British colonialism began. As they colonized various parts of the world, they bought in the rock dove and the passenger pigeon for communication purposes. In 1914, the passenger pigeon was wiped out. The rock dove, however, earlier considered inferior in terms of its navigational abilities, proved its evolutionary supremacy and adaptability by establishing large populations In areas where it was introduced.

Pigeony problems

As their population exploded, they overran several species, interbreeding with other introduced species, like the fantail pigeon, and homing pigeon, rapidly changing until they were no longer rock doves, instead they were feral pigeons. Bird feeding enhanced the effect of the diseases they were spreading. (Bird feeding attracts pigeons, dogs, cats, crows, starlings, which intermingle freely, giving birth to new and more powerful diseases every minute). Another big issue is their poop or faeces. It is the transmitting agent which spreads this disease from one individual to another. It also accelerates the aging and dilapidation of age-old structures Their feathers, which fall every second, are a major cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases around the globe.

Controlling Pigeons

Pigeons can be controlled through simple processes like:

  • Hanging Chimes wherever they roost: Chimes make noise and move, thus pigeons like any other birds do not like to perch near them. Also, it is more pleasant to hear the tinkling of chimes instead of the movement-detecting electric buzzer.
  • Lamps: Pigeons like to sit in dim, dark and dingy nooks and crannies. Even though a fire is more effective, it is more likely you cannot light a fire near your walls. A well placed lamp is practical and safe.

What happened to the original rock dove?

The original, clean, pure, rock dove still lives on, in the cliffs and mountains of Mexico and Columbia. They are naturally born acrobats, skydiving and performing stunts in these cliffs.

Most people do not know that these are good birds, and are often defamed along with their disease-ridden cousins.

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