Plumage polymorphism of the Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)

A. Leiss et Dh. Haag-wackernagel, Plumage polymorphism of the Feral Pigeon (Columba livia), J ORNITHOL, 140(3), 1999, pp. 341-353
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Animal Sciences
Journal title
ISSN journal
0021-8375 → ACNP
Year of publication
341 - 353
SICI code
Feral pigeons probably show greater variation in plumage colouration than a ny other free-living bird species. The different colour patterns are linked to ethological and physiological characteristics which in turn show differ ent fitness under different urban selection pressures. The majority of the colouration types diverging from the wild type may be attributed to the dom estic ancestors of our feral pigeons. Additionally, spontaneous mutations m ay occur as shown for the Vienna population. So far, rare colouration types have often been ignored, confounded or not correctly determined. In this p aper, we consider all colouration types found in the feral pigeons of Basle and Vienna. We also list and compare the different corresponding hereditar y factors. Two samples (n(1) = 153, n(2) = 174) were taken of the feral pigeon populat ion of Basle and compared with a sample of 7682 birds in Vienna (3.6%, 3.5% of the estimated populations). In total, there are 60 hereditary factors i nfluencing the plumage colouration in Columba livia. Of these, 23 were foun d in Vienna and 13 in Basle. One bird of the Vienna population showed a hit herto unknown hereditary factor (rusty, ry). The hereditary factors resulte d in 100 combinations in Vienna and 30 in Basle. There were significant dif ferences in plumage colouration between the birds in the two study sites. I n Basle, the dominant pigmentation Dominant Red (B-A) was found nearly twic e as often as in Vienna (9.2% vs 4.8%, chi(2) = 13.1, p = 0.0015). Signific ant difference emerged neither in the distribution of the primary patterns nor in the groups of Blue-bars ("Wild"), Melanics ("Urban") and Others ("Do mestics"). There were, however, significant differences in the additional f actors (chi(2) = 27.9, p = 0.0058). The factor Pied appeared more frequentl y in Basle (G(2) = 8.924, p = 0.0028). This could be explained by the prese nce of a higher proportion of escaped carrier-pigeons. The factor Grizzle o ccurred more frequently in Vienna (G(2) = 11.975, p = 0.0005) owing to the influence of escaped tumblers. The different selection systems in Vienna an d Basle are discussed with regard to their influence on the distribution of the plumage polymorphism.