PIGEON

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PIGEON (columba). The domestic pigeon is supposed to be derived from the c<┬únas, or stockdove; it has been the companion of man from a very early period; the varieties, however, known to the Greeks, were very few, but were greatly increased among the Romans, with whom the breeding of these birds was quite a science. The same attention to them lias continued in some modern nations, and the adepts in the art pretend that the almost innumerable varieties may be bred to a feather. The names bestowed on these varieties are indicative of their peculiarities, as, tumblers, croppers, carriers, runts, &c. In their wild state, the pigeon tribe live on high trees, generally in flocks. They feed on seed, though sometimes on fruit, retaining their food in the crop for some time. The greater proportion of the species build on elevated situations, forming a loose nest of small twigs, and wide enough to contain both sexes ; the female lays two eggs, several times a year. They feed their young by regurgitating the food contained in the crop. They pair for life, though they assemble in flocks. They have no song, their note being a simple cooing. The external characters of the genus are a weak, slender and straight bill; short legs, with no distinct membrane between the toes; tail with twelve feathers; they walk well, and fly with great swiftness, continuing on the wing for a long time. They are found in every part of the world, but the species are most numerous in warm climates. Of all the varieties of the pigeon, the most remarkable for its attachment to its native place is the messenger or carrier. This is distinguished from the others by a broad circle of naked white skin round the eyes, and by its dark blue or blackish color. They obtained their name from the cix'cumstance of their being used to convey letters from one place to another. The bird is brought, for this purpose, from the place where it is intended to convey the information ; a letter is tied under its wing, and it is set at liberty; and, from some inconceivable instinct, it directs its flight, in a straight line, to the very spot from whence it had been taken. (See Carrier Pigeon.) There are several species of pigeons found in the U. States, the most numerous of which is the C. migratoria, passenger or wild pigeon. This is of a bluishslate color, with a white belly; the throat, breast and sides vinaceous; tail black, of twelve feathers, five lateral whitish; the female is paler, and her breast of a cinereous brown. These birds visit the different states, in innumerable quantities, but are more abundant in the Western States. The times of their appearance in Pennsylvania is early in the spring, and again in autumn, when they pass in flocks consisting of thousand's. Wilson states that these flocks are insignificant in comparison to those observed in the Western States, which abound in the favorite food of these birds. They breed there, and the same author mentions that some of the breedingplaces, as they are termed, extend for thirty or forty miles in extent. They are taken by means of clapnets, managed by a person concealed in a hut composed of brushwood. In this way, ten to forty or fifty dozens are sometimes taken at a sweep. Their appearance is also a signal for a general turn out of eveiy one that can obtain a gun. (For a detailed description, see Wilson, Am. Or., V. p. 102.) The other American species are, the C. fasciata, bandtailed pigeon; C. leucocephala, whitecrowned pigeon; C. Zenaida, Zenaida dove ; C. Carolinensis, American turtle dove ; C. passerina, ground dove. (See Turtle Dove.) PIG IRON. (See Iron, vol. vii, p. 72.) PIG OF BALLAST ; a large mass of cast iron or lead, used for ballast.