Pigeons not native to North America

The pigeons which hang around our farms and cities are not native to North America.
Most folks think they are descended from the Rock Dove of Eurasia. However, they were domesticated more than 3,000 years ago.
They came to our continent via British and other settlers, who found in these birds a touch of home.
Most pigeons are about one pound in weight (half-a-kilogram) but the largest can go up to one-and-a-half pounds (they are for eating).
Pigeons can live to the ripe old age of 15 or 16 years.
Almost everybody knows about the pigeon’s ability to find its way home from very far away. This ability has been used a lot during wartime—from the days of the Roman legions right up to World War II.
And pigeon racing has been a sport for centuries.
Pigeon racing works like this. The birds are taken a long way away to some fixed starting point. At that place, they are released and very accurately timed.
Now they all head home, wherever that may be.
When a pigeon gets home, the owner has to remove a metal gadget from its leg and put this gadget into a special clock. This stops the clock.
So you can tell quite accurately how fast your bird flew home.
These “racing homers” have to be trained. You start out by taking your bird about a mile away from home (if he doesn’t come back from that, he’s not much good anyway!)
Then you take him two miles away, then four, and so on. Finally, you start on the big jumps—25 miles, then 50, and on and on.
Good “homers” easily can find their way home up to 2,000 miles, or even more.
And here’s one for you: some birds have been able to find home even when “home” was a moving ship at sea.
A good, proven racer can be worth several thousands of dollars.
Young birds are hatched (two to a nest) naked, blind, and helpless. For the first few days, they are fed “pigeon milk.” The old birds (both of them) secrete this material in their crops.
In a short while, they are fed partly-digested grain.
They reach their maximum size at four weeks, and then they are on their own.
All pigeons are not “homers.” In fact, there are more than 200 varieties.
Some of these odd ones are Fantails (they have enormous tails) while some are Pouters. These have great big crops, which they can fill with air, so the top half of the bird looks as though he had swallowed a balloon.
Tumblers fly high in the sky, then somersault down until they are nearly at the ground.
Jacobins, meanwhile, have big feather ruffs while Trumpeters have large feathers on their feet.
The biggest ones are the Kings and the Runts (whoever named this one?), which are used for meat.
Classy hotels serve “squab” (young pigeons) and the meal usually commands a good price.
These odd birds are the very same species as those which live in our cities and towns in great numbers. They can become a terrible nuisance, and it is very costly to try to get rid of them.
The domestic pigeon (Columba livia) is with us on every continent, and no doubt will be here for a very long time.

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