Rare Wild Ancestors of Feral Pigeons Found Living on British and Irish Islands

Rock Dove
Researchers led by members of Oxford University's Department of Biology have found rare colonies of the wild ancestors of common domestic and feral pigeons. Already extinct in England and Wales, the wild Rock Dove (Columba livia) has been found on secluded Scottish and Irish islands, providing insights into how the domestic pigeon came to be. “Feral” pigeons originate from escaped domestic birds and can be seen in towns and cities all over the world. These domestic pigeons are descended from wild Rock Doves, which nest in sea caves and mountainous areas. Despite the success of feral pigeons, the Rock Dove has been declining throughout its global range – which once encompassed vast areas of Africa, Asia and Europe. University of Oxford DPhil student and lead author Will Smith said: “Studying the decline of the Rock Dove has been challenging for researchers because of such extensive interbreeding and replacement with feral pigeons.”
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