Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rock On!

Having a very urban, relatively bland backyard can make backyard birding a challenge, but I was thrilled to add a new yard bird to my list this weekend: a rock pigeon. The irony is that these birds are often one of the most common in urban areas, but they've never before graced my feeders. Two of the beauties - a matching pair of classically plumaged birds with iridescent necks - found my feeders and enjoyed foraging beneath them, hunting for seeds and insects that may have spilled.

A lot of birders don't appreciate the rock pigeon for what it is: a remarkably adaptable, unflappable bird that has survived and thrived in some of the widest ranging habitats and most variable conditions on the planet. From their native European cliff nesting grounds to urban habitats around the world, rock pigeons are the ultimate success story in avian fitness. Granted, I'm privileged in that I've only had a single pair of these birds at my feeders rather than a ravenous flock, but even in areas where I am surrounded by these birds they remain among my favorites.

I'm also thrilled for their visit for another reason; their appearance at my feeders completes the trio of common dove species to visit my yard: Eurasian collared-doves, mourning doves, and rock pigeons. These three species are found throughout Utah, and while several other species do make cameo appearances in the state, these three are the only ones likely in my area and certainly at my feeders, where all three are most welcome.

It was gratifying, too, to have the opportunity to compare the rock pigeon's behavior to that of my more familiar doves. It is curious that they fall between the magnanimous, laid back personalities of the mourning doves and the highly skittish, always-on-alert personalities of the Eurasian collared-doves. Whey they were startled by noises and unusual movements, rather than flushing immediately as the collared-doves are prone to do, they froze, evaluated the situation, then resumed foraging when they saw no further threat.

They didn't stay long, but I do hope they'll return. Rock on, rock pigeons.

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