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Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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The rock pigeon or rock dove is a member of the bird family Columbidae (doves and pigeons). In common usage, this bird is often simply referred to as the "pigeon".

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The species includes the domestic pigeon, including the fancy pigeon. Escaped domestic pigeons have raised the populations of feral pigeons around the world.

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Wild rock doves are pale grey with two black bars on each wing, while domestic and feral pigeons are very variable in colour and pattern. Few differences are seen between males and females. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents care for the young for a time.

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Habitats include various open and semiopen environments. Cliffs and rock ledges are used for roosting and breeding in the wild. Originally found wild in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, pigeons have become established in cities around the world. The species is abundant, with an estimated population of 17 to 28 million feral and wild birds in Europe.

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The rock dove was first described by Gmelin in 1789. The genus name Columba is the Latin word meaning "pigeon, dove", whose older etymology comes from the Ancient Greek (kolumbos), "a diver", "dive, plunge headlong, swim". Aristophanes and others use the word kolumbis, "diver", for the name of the bird, because of its swimming motion in the air. The specific epithet is derived from the Latin livor, "bluish". Its closest relative in the Columba genus is the hill pigeon, followed by the other rock pigeons: the snow, speckled and white-collared pigeons.

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The species is also known as the rock pigeon or blue rock dove, the former being the official name from 2004 to 2011, at which point the IOC changed their official listing to its original British name of rock dove (styled as Rock Dove). In common usage, this bird is still often simply referred to as the "pigeon". Pigeon chicks are called squabs.

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The adult of the nominate subspecies of the rock dove is 29 to 37 cm long with a 62 to 72 cm wingspan. Weight for wild or feral rock doves ranges from 238–380 g, though overfed domestic and semi-domestic individuals can exceed normal weights. It has a dark bluish-grey head, neck, and chest with glossy yellowish, greenish, and reddish-purple iridescence along its neck and wing feathers. The iris is orange, red or golden with a paler inner ring, and the bare skin round the eye is bluish-grey. The bill is grey-black with a conspicuous off-white cere, and the feet are purplish-red. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is typically around 22.3 cm, the tail is 9.5 to 11 cm, the bill is around 1.8 cm and the tarsus is 2.6 to 3.5 cm.

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The adult female is almost identical to the male, but the iridescence on the neck is less intense and more restricted to the rear and sides, while that on the breast is often very obscure.

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The white lower back of the pure rock dove is its best identification character; the two black bars on its pale grey wings are also distinctive. The tail has a black band on the end and the outer web of the tail feathers are margined with white. It is strong and quick on the wing, dashing out from sea caves, flying low over the water, its lighter grey rump showing well from above.

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Young birds show little lustre and are duller. Eye colour of the pigeon is generally orange but a few pigeons may have white-grey eyes. The eyelids are orange in colour and are encapsulated in a grey-white eye ring. The feet are red to pink.

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When circling overhead, the white underwing of the bird becomes conspicuous. In its flight, behaviour, and voice, which is more of a dovecot coo than the phrase of the wood pigeon, it is a typical pigeon. Although it is a relatively strong flier, it also glides frequently, holding its wings in a very pronounced V shape as it does. Though fields are visited for grain and green food, it is often not plentiful enough as to be a viewed as pest.

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Pigeons feed on the ground in flocks or individually. They are scavengers, and frequently feed on human garbage. Pigeon groups typically consist of producers, which locate and obtain food, and scroungers, which feed on food obtained by the producers. Generally, groups of pigeons contain a greater proportion of scroungers than producers. They roost together in buildings or on walls or statues. When drinking, most birds take small sips and tilt their heads backwards to swallow the water. Pigeons are able to dip their bills into the water and drink continuously without having to tilt their heads back. When disturbed, a pigeon in a group will take off with a noisy clapping sound.

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Pigeons, especially homing or carrier breeds, are well known for their ability to find their way home from long distances. Despite these demonstrated abilities, wild rock doves are sedentary and rarely leave their local areas.

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The rock dove has a restricted natural resident range in western and southern Europe, North Africa, and into South Asia. The rock dove is often found in pairs in the breeding season but is usually gregarious. The species (including ferals) has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population, including an estimated 17–28 million individuals in Europe. Fossil evidence suggests the rock dove originated in southern Asia and skeletal remains unearthed in Israel confirm their existence there for at least three hundred thousand years. However, this species has such a long history with humans that it is impossible to tell exactly where the species' original range was. Its habitat is natural cliffs, usually on coasts. Its domesticated form, the feral pigeon, has been widely introduced elsewhere, and is common, especially in cities, over much of the world. A rock pigeon's lifespan is anywhere from 3–5 years in the wild to 15 years in captivity, though longer-lived specimens have been reported. The main causes of mortality in the wild are predators and persecution by humans. The species was first introduced to North America in 1606 at Port

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The rock dove breeds at any time of the year, but peak times are spring and summer. Nesting sites are along coastal cliff faces, as well as the artificial cliff faces created by apartment buildings with accessible ledges or roof spaces.

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The nest is a flimsy platform of straw and sticks, laid on a ledge, under cover, often on the window ledges of buildings. Two white eggs are laid; incubation is shared by both parents lasting from 17 to 19 days. The newly hatched squab (nestling) has pale yellow down and a flesh-coloured bill with a dark band. For the first few days, the baby squabs are tended and fed (through regurgitation) exclusively on "crop milk" (also called "pigeon milk" or "pigeon's milk"). The pigeon milk is produced in the crops of both parents in all species of pigeons and doves. The fledging period is about 30 days.

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Rock Pigeon, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Rock Pigeon, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Rock Pigeon, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Rock Pigeon, Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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Wings over Valparai

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The Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Valparai area in Western-Ghats of Tamilnadu are both perfect bird watching destinations. Birders will marvel at the array of colorful birds like Hornbills, Thrush Family, Flycatchers, woodpeckers and of course the sighting of our national bird, The Indian Peafowl.

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There are more than 350 species of birds found in Anamalais. The list includes resident birds, winter visitors and endemic birds of Anamalais. Nearly 5 % of birds found in Anamalai Tiger Reserve are endemic to Western Ghats

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What is birdwatching?

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Birdwatching or birding is the observation and study of birds with the naked eye or through a visual enhancement device like binoculars. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more readily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity mainly for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who engage in the study of birds using more formal scientific methods.

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What do you need for birdwatching?

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• The most basic equipment required for bird watching is your eyes. That´s true but you will soon need to have more items with you if you intend to make this a pastime or serious hobby. How far you go is a matter of taste and budget.

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• The most useful thing that you can carry is a notepad and pencil. Use this to make a note of location, time, date, weather and habitat. Do a list of the birds that you see and know. Do a drawing or write down a description of those that you don’t. You can look them up later in you field guide. Your notebook should become a diary of where you have been and what you have seen. It will become a useful record as time passes.

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• A Field guide is a book, normally illustrated with drawings or photographs, which provides descriptions of birds that assists you in their identification. The descriptions use several factors to help you determine the exact bird that you are looking at. As soon as you see a bird that you do not recognize you will need to have access a good field guide. There are many to choose from. They come in various shapes, sizes, weight and cost.

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• Sites guides. These give locations where you can watch birds, the species you are likely to see and the best time to watch.

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• Binoculars. These are pretty essential and buy the best that you can afford. A good pair well looked after will last you a lifetime. Take time to choose ones that suit you.

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• Clothing. Bird watching being primarily an outdoor pursuit, it is sensible to have lightweight but warm and waterproof clothing. You will be more comfortable if you wear the right type of clothing for the conditions you are in.

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• Telescope. If you want to get a really close look at birds then you will need to get a bird watching scope and tripod. These are more expensive than binoculars but if you get to be serious about bird watching you will soon want to have them.

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• Camera. A simple point and shoot digital camera is good if you are close to birds, especially if you have a zoom lens. If not close enough to shoot birds it is still good to take general views or mementos of your day out. More expensive cameras, with telephoto lenses, can bring you close in to the birds.

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• Digiscoping. You can take pictures via your Scope–using it as a telephoto lens. You will need attachments for your scope.

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Code of birding ethics

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1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
1. (a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.
1. (b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.
   Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;
   Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.
   Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.
1. (c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
1. (d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.
2. (a) Do not enter private property without the owner’s explicit permission.
2. (b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.
2. (c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.

3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
3. (a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.
3. (b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.
3. (c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.

4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.
  Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.
4. (a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.
4. (b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

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Other highlights for the avid birder will be the sighting of The Great HornBill or Thrush. Learn more about the endamic, migrants and other birds in and around valparai by checking out the list

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The below list is created in the guidance of Mr. K Selva Ganesh, Cinchona Government High School, Valparai who teaches English. Along with his students, won ebird’s Great Backyard Bird Count challenge, 2017. They contributed 360 checklists of birds, the highest number in the bird count challenge, and recorded 111 species.

Images and Data courtesy Mr. K Selva Ganesh, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia and ebird.org

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List of Endamic Birds of Western-Ghats you can see in Valparai

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List of Migrant Birds that can be seen in Valparai

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List of Other Birds you can see in Valparai

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