Why do pigeons exist in so many colours?

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17 October 2010

Pigeons are all descended from the blue-bar Rock Pigeon, but over hundreds of years pigeons were selectively bred by humans for their colors, homing instincts, or racing abilities. As a result, captive flocks of different-colored pigeons were established all over the world. Eventually, captive birds escaped into the wild to become the feral, common pigeon flocks we see today.

Pigeons have never reverted to the colors of their wild relatives in the Mediterranean and beyond. No other feral animal has kept so many domestic colors for more than a few generations.

Scientists believe there are at least three possible explanations why there are so many colors of pigeons across the world:

  1. They don’t have many natural predators in cities.
  2. Food is abundant in cities.
  3. Assortative mating.

The data that I will collect will help the scientists at the Cornell lab in New York learn:

  • why pigeons continue to exist in so many colors
  • which color morphs pigeons prefer for mates

More images for Project Pigeonwatch

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