Feral Pigeons are domesticated birds that have escaped from captivity to breed in a wild state, as well as their descendants. Such domestic birds are derivatives from Rock Doves which have been selectively bred as racers, or to breed throughout the year when they were relied upon as a food resource. Selective breeding has resulted in a great variety of plumage patterns, including some which approximate to their Rock Dove ancestors. It is unlikely that any pure bred Rock Doves have survived in Pembrokeshire because of inter breeding with the numerically preponderant feral varieties. Feral Pigeons in Pembrokeshire nest on ledges in buildings, quarries and sea cliffs.
Comparing the distribution in 1984-88 with that of 2003-07 shows a 63% increase by the latter period. The number of registrations diminished along parts of the coast in the west and north but showed an increase inland, albeit with a considerable adjustment in localities. The increase accords with the findings of the BBS, which assessed a 69% increase in Wales as a whole between 1994 and 2007. The estimate made at the end of 1988 of 3,000 pairs in Pembrokeshire, attempted to allow for larger concentrations in towns than elsewhere. Assuming the estimate was realistic and applying a 63% increase, suggests that approaching 5,000 pairs were nesting in 2007. The reasons for the increase are not known but a diminished interest in maintaining lofts by pigeon racers, with a consequent release of birds, may have been a contributory factor.
Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007
Mathew (1894) noted Rock Doves at Ramsey, Elegug Stacks and Huntsman’s Leap but by 1949 Lockley et al. thought that they were “perhaps extinct as a pure race”.
Feral Pigeons (wild populations of birds descended from domesticated stock) now breed all around the outer coastline, showing a great variety of plumage patterns some of which closely approach that of Rock Doves. They also breed in town buildings, castles and ruins, industrial sites and country churches. Some farms still have breeding birds in the pigeon-holes of the barns, presumably descendants of stock that was once kept for winter meat.
Pigeon fanciers operate many lofts within the county and their birds can frequently be seen flying around in flocks that act cohesively whereas Feral Pigeons generally act much more as individuals. Drop-outs from pigeon races occur on the offshore islands as far out as the Smalls and undoubtedly keep the feral mainland population topped up.
An average of two pairs of Feral Pigeons per tetrad are estimated to breed around the outer coastline. A further broad estimate of 40 pairs per tetrad elsewhere suggests a minimum Pembrokeshire breeding total of about 3,000 pairs.
Perhaps extinct as a pure race. Tracy stated that a few pairs nested on the coastal cliffs (before 1850), and Mathew thought a few nested in Huntsman’s Leap. Whintle includes it in his list for Caldey. Three adults and one juvenile were received at Cardiff Museum from Tenby, 1898. Presumably the few pairs of coast-breeding wild doves (some obviously showing by their colours an admixtue of homing pigeon blood) are descended from the original Rock-Doves of this coast.
Dr C.Walton records a small colony of six pairs with typical pure plumage breeding in rocks ner St Davids Head, 1947, in which year typical “blue rocks” were recorded at Newport Head, Strumble area, St Davids, Marloes, Linney Head, and Stackpole Quay.
Mr. Tracy, writing fifty years ago, stated that a few pairs then nested in the cliffs on the coast. But we must state that we have never seen a Pembrokeshire specimen of this species, and some eggs sent to us from St. David’s were evidently too large for those of the Rock-dove. However, from what Mr. Mortimer Propert tells us, we believe that there may be a pair or two of genuine Rock-doves nesting in the caves on Ramsey Island. We have ourselves, on various visits to that most romantic and charming island, seen many Pigeons flying along the cliffs, but were never able to get sufficiently near them to be certain what they were.
Mr. E. W. H. Blagg, of Cheadle, Staffordshire, who was staying at Tenby in the summer of 1887, assures us that he saw Rock-doves in the neighbourhood of the Stack Rocks, and also at the “Huntsman’s Leap,” a name given to a deep fissure in the cliffs, where there is a sheer descent of a hundred feet or more to the beach below. “At the latter spot,” he writes, ” I can call to mind seeing a few Doves come out of the deep fissures in the steep cliffs, far away below us, so that we had a good view of their white rumps, and this was my first introduction to Rock-doves; since then, in 1892, I have seen crowds of wild Rock-doves in the Shetlands.” He adds further ” Stock-doves I have known well all my life. Of course there are lots of them near Tenby, and I have come across plenty of them on the coast of Carnarvonshire; they seem to prefer ivy-covered cliffs, not very high as a rule, but I think the Rock-Doves like cliffs that are too wild and steep for ivy to grow on them, with caves and deep fissures to shelter in.”
Columba livia – COLOMEN Y GRAIG / COLOMEN DDOF – Feral Breeding resident 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 60 Breeding probable 17 Breeding possible 66 No of tetrads occupied 143 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 29.9% Mathew (1894) noted Rock Doves at Ramsey, Elegug Stacks and Huntsman’s Leap but by 1949 Lockley et al. thought that they were “perhaps […]
Columba livia – COLOMEN Y GRAIG / COLOMEN DDOF – Feral Breeding resident The BTO winter atlas showed that Feral Pigeons were present in most 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square. The darkest blue represents over 115 birds. However, […]