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intervals, but pigeons take a long-continued draught, like quadrupeds.”
The hind toe, instead of being elevated on the leg, or tarsus, in the pigeon, is upon the same plane as the anterior toes; it is fairly pressed to the ground in walking, and embraces the roost in perching. Again, the wings are long, the quill feathers firm, and the flight remarkable for rapidity and endurance. To these rules there are certain exceptions, some of the more terrestrial species of pigeon being found to approximate in some degree, as it respects these particulars, to the gallinaceous tribes, while, at the same time, no one can mistake their true affinities. Two species of crowned pigeon* (Lophyrus) for example are known, both from the Moluccas, New Guinea, etc. Yet these large and heavy birds, almost exclusively terrestrial in their habits, and exceeding a fowl in size, are in essential structure true pigeons, though the wings and limbs approximate to those of gallinaceous birds.
We will not here enter into technical details, but we believe that, in a thorough examination of the internal organization, the
* Both species have been kept alive (1845) in the gardens of the Zool. Soc.
opinion which goes to associate the columbine tribes into an order distinct from any other, will be found to be completely justified.
De Blainville places the pigeons in an order which he calls Sponsores. The prince of Musignano terms them Gyrantes, (in allusion to their circular flight.) In the “Museum of Animated Nature" they are termed Gyratores.
THE DOMESTIC PIGEON. The domestic pigeon is divided into almost innumerable varieties, from the high-bred carrier to the ordinary race of the dovecote; yet, diversified as they are in appearance, they are all, according to the opinion of those who have investigated the subject, descendants the common rock dove, * (Columba livia.) To this opinion, were we not from experience aware of the difficulty of keeping up any remarkable strain in its purity, we should hesitate to subscribe; and we are not quite sure that there is not some ancient admixture of allied species, (as we believe to be in the instance of the dog,) whence, perhaps, arises a certain constitutional tendency to assume, at indefinite periods, varieties of form and con
* Not the stock dove, (Col. Ænas,) which is a forest or woodland bird, and has obtained its title in error.
tour. We doubt much whether any plans of treatment or inter-breeding would ever produce a carrier or horseman, so singularly specific are they in their characters, and of this we are sure, that if the breed be once extinct, no arts will ever consummate its renewal. Other varieties are far more easily accounted for, but this, of ancient lineage, descended from a remote line of oriental ancestry, has continued in distinctness to the present day. True, it has been interbred with baser strains by fanciers ; but more or less pure, its distinctive characters yet survive, often in high perfection. We may say the same, with some reservation, respecting the barb,-a black pigeon with an occipital crest and a naked circle of scarlet skin round the eyes.
But before we attempt to give a sketch, (and a sketch only, for we are not of the fancy,) of the principal varieties of the domestic pigeon, it may be as well to turn our attention to their assumed origin, the rock pigeon, and give a brief history of its general habits and economy.
The Rock PIGEON (Columba livia).--Le Biset and Le Rocheraye of the French writers, Piccione de Rocca, etc., of the Italians, Colom
men of the ancient British, is a bird of wide dispersion. It is a native of the British islands, breeding upon the sea-side rocks. It abounds in the Orkneys and Hebrides, along the rocky shores of Wales, and various other places on our coasts, not excepting old towers, and ruins a few miles inland, as we ourselves can personally testify. Throughout Europe, the same observations apply; along the coasts of France, Spain, and Italy, it frequents in multitudes the same localities.
The rocky islands of the Mediterranean are its favourite abodes; it was known of old in Greece; it abounds in northern Africa, and along the Asiatic shores far into India. And here we cannot but advert to a passage in the Zool. Proc. 1832, respecting a pigeon noticed by colonel Sykes in his account of the birds of the Dukhun. The passage is as follows: “Columba Anas, Linn. Stock-pigeon, parwa of the Mahrattas. The most common bird in the Dukhun, congregating in flocks of scores, and a constant inhabitant of every old dilapidated building. Colonel Sykes saw the same species on board ship on the voyage to England brought from China. Irides, orange, etc. The Dukhun bird differs from the European species in the bill being black,* instead of pale red, in the utter want of white in the quills; the want of white in the tail-feathers; and in the legs being brownf instead of black. As these differences are permanent, they might justify a specific name being applied to the Dukhun pigeon."
Now we hesitate not to say that this bird was not the Stock-dove (C. Ænas) nor any variety of it, but the Rock-dove (C. Livia) or a closely allied species (if not mere variety), and this might be presumed from the fact alone of its inhabiting old dilapidated buildings. Selby speaking of the Rock-dove says, “Although this species seems to have fallen frequently under the notice of our ornithologists as may be gathered from their descriptions and the localities they have given to it,) yet it has always been attended by the original supposition of this and the preceding species (stock-dove) being identical. In form and size they very nearly agree, the rock-dove being, perhaps, rather more slender. The predominant shades of each are also much
* Bill blackish brown. Selby, art. Rock-dove.
† Legs pale purplish red. Selby, art, Rock-dove. Bright cochineal red in the stock-dove.--Idem.