Rock Pigeon

Columba livia Gmelin, 1789

Columba liva L.: Reiser (1894): 144.

Order Columbiformes

Family Columbidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [A1ce], BDA-III.

General distribution. Probably a Turkestan-Mediterranean species whose area embraces Europe, some islands in the Mediterranean, Northern and Central Africa, Asia [5].

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Resident. Until the middle of the 20th century it was reported as widely distributed and numerous [1]. Since the end of the 1980s its numbers have been permanently declining, and hybrid forms with wandering domestic doves have been observed at places [2]. At present it is mainly found in separate regions of low and medium altitudes along the Black Sea coast, gorges and rock wreaths in the valleys, the low mountainous and mountain massifs to altitudes of about 1 000 1 700 m. Very rare or entirely extinct from the high parts of the mountains Rila, Pirin, the Central and the Western Balkan range, etc. [5]. Since the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, in most places where the species was registered, individuals with the phenotypical features of the Rock Pidgeon and different hybrids forms of the Rock Dove (Columba livia var. domestica) have been found living together. Spearate small colonies in which all the individuals have the phenotypical features characteristic of the Rock Pidgeon (C. livia) have also been found. It is highly unlikely for them not to hybridize with domesic pidgeons in the near future. The last estimation of the numbers was between 400 and 1 000 pairs [4].

Habitats. Rocky regions with vertical walls, rarely on high slopes of earth banks, mainly in the flat, low mountainous and middle mountainous zone; the central mountainous zone, very rare in the sub-Alpine and the Alpine zone. It prefers vertical rock slopes with a well-marked relief (with niches, holes, cracks, cronices, etc.), and in the past also precipice caves with large entrance openings.

Biology. It breeds in shelters in ceilings and walls of caves with large entrances, rock bridges; in holes, cracks, protected cornices along open vertical rock slopes. The nest is built of small branches, herbaceous stems, small roots, etc. In most cases it forms colonies: from 3-4 to several tens of pairs. Sometimes it breeds in the close vicinity of Eurasian Jackdaws, Kestrels and Alpine Swifts; in the past also Alpine Choughs [3]. The courting period begins in March-April [2]. The full clutch consists of 2 white eggs. The incubation lasts for 17-18 days, at the age of 30-35 days the young ones leave the nest [2]. Yearly it breeds two generaltions. In the hybrid forms in nature in colonies at lower altitudes (personal data), a strongly extended and even permanent multiplication cycle is observed. It mainly feeds on seeds of various herbaceous plants.

Similar species. The Hill Pigeon (Columba rupestris) [6].

Negative factors. Hybridization with different breeds of domestic doves. Change of the habitats for feeding as a result of changed agricultural practices in the last several decades. Illegal shooting.

Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act.

Conservation measures needed. Doing genetic research on the species. Multiplication in zoological parks and multiplication centres. Studying foreign experience on the problem of its hybridization. Carrying out focused long-term studies on the species in nature.

References. 1. Patev, 1950; 2. Simeonov et al., 1990; 3. Stoyanov, 1996; 4. Kostadinova, 1997, 5. Stoyanov, 2001. 6. Howard & Moore, 1980;

Author: Georgi P. Stoyanov

Rock Pigeon (distribution map)

Rock Pigeon (drawing)