I am always interested in examples of animals adapting to human presence and actively seeking out the opportunities that we provide. Rock doves aka feral pigeons (Columba livia) are, of course, one of the best known of these (and unfairly despised as ‘flying rats’). I wonder if we started keeping them for food (and message carrying) because they moved into town of their own accord as a substitute for their natural cliff homes. Or did the city-dwelling pigeons descend from escaped captives?
I remember there was the case of a pigeon back in the ‘90s that made the newspapers because it had started commuting on the London Underground, regularly getting on at one stop each morning and catching the Piccadilly Line to another where it would make its way above ground and spend the day foraging. Come evening it would retrace its steps and head back to its original stop for the night. A quick delve into YouTube shows that this sort of behaviour on the LondonTube continues to the present day.
In June I came across this pigeon at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport that appears to have its sights set on a more ambitious type of human-assisted journey. I was told it is an honorary member of the cleaning staff, with special duties tidying up croissant crumbs, but it seemed to be showing an interest in the departures board as well, so do keep an eye out for it next time you are at an airport!
Watching rock doves in the Hebrides last month prompted further thoughts on their domestication, but those will have to wait for another post…..