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Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 1

This is an old saying in the birdie world... "If you are born a bird, then count yourself lucky if your parents are Pigeons or Doves".They are the most doting and protective parents who take care of the little ones till they start flying.

A study of fossils indicate that Pigeons and Doves have been around for a long time before the humans and are thought to have originated in Asia over several million years ago. Pigeons are adorable, some people love them, some call them nasty and dirty. Though they are peaceful birds, they are considered a menace to the environement and are solely responsible for the corrosion and damage to many architectural monuments, thanks to their acidic droppings. Pigeons are believed to carry germs and disease, their droppings are harmful and can cause brain and lung infections, hence many countries eradicate pigeons or deploy pigeon repellant programs.

Raising pigeons as a hobby can be fun, but when a pigeon makes your balcony its roosting quarters, it might be a difficult task to adjust with the pigeon if you want it to stay and rear the chicks.

Here is our story. A gray pigeon couple (i dont know what kind, but after some research, i am led to believe that it is the "Colombia Livia" or commonly known as the Rock Dove) built a nest and laid eggs in our balcony. I have been monitoring their progress for the last 7 weeks and taking pictures at every stage of their growth and development. For convenience sake, i have decided to split the whole story into several posts where each post represents one week of their progress.

Here is a report for the first week: 03 July - 09 July

03 July 2006:
Pigeon caught sneaking in with twigs to build a nest. I was ready to chase away the pigeon before i saw the eggs, but i quickly changed my mind thinking of the life i can help create by letting the pigeon stay. I dont know how many days it has been since the eggs were laid.

A pigeon's nest is usually constructed with small twigs and dried leaves and is located on covered building ledges that resemble cliffs, a Rock Dove's natural habitat. The male brings the nesting material to the female, one piece at a time and she builds the nest, usually well-hidden and hard to find. This one was built in a hard to reach corner right behind the central air conditioner's exhaust vent. A very tight spot, but just enough space for the pigeon to build a nest. Believe me, i had a very tough time trying to take pictures.

Once a pigeon couple mates, they remain loyal to their partners for the rest of their lives. They reproduce throughout the year, even during winter, and can raise four or five broods annually. The female usually lays two white eggs (in a span of 48 hours). Both parents take turns protecting the eggs and keeping them warm (the eggs need to be around 80F and dry all the time). The incubation period is usually for 15-18 days before the chicks hatch out. Males usually stay on the nest during the day; females at night.

As per my observation, they had the same schedule for rest of the week. The male arrives exactly at 10 AM each day and the female takes off for a break. She then gets back at exactly 6 PM to take over. I dont know if there is a midnight shift, but i think unfair labor practices are being used here; the male takes a 16 hour break and the female takes off only for 8 hours???. I wonder where the Women's Rights group is...

I assume this is the male with the big body and the shiny iridescence around the neck. I may be wrong, but there is a lot of inconsitent information on the internet regarding pigeons. It is sad but true that pigeons are the most common birds found everywhere in the world, but little has been researched on this subject.

Pigeons can hear sounds at much lower frequencies than humans can, such as wind blowing across buildings and mountains, distant thunderstorms and even far-away volcanoes. Sensitive hearing may explain why pigeons sometimes fly away for no apparent reason. They probably heard something you didnt and they are very alert all the time.

Adult pigeons have orange or red-orange eyes. Their pupils enlarge when they are alert and sense danger. Pigeons have a very acute sense of vision. They can see all colors and even ultraviolet light which humans cannot see.

Nothing much to report for the rest of the week. The only action was incubation and parents taking turns to sit on the eggs. Watch this space for updates. Week 2 coming soon....

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