Feral Pigeons are descended from wild Rock Doves, originally caught and domesticated for food, then later bred for racing and message carrying when their remarkable homing instincts were discovered. Selective breeding from individuals with plumage mutations led to the development of fancy varieties, some of which escaped or were released into the wild so that feral populations now display a wide range of different plumage types and colours. They were introduced to inhabited parts of every continent and naturalised populations can be found almost worldwide.
    In Britain genetically pure Rock Doves can still be found only on remote islands and perhaps some sea cliffs in north and west Scotland. Feral Pigeons are common in built up areas, where they compete with other urban scavengers such as gulls for the abundant food supplies provided deliberately or carelessly by the human population. They are also found on farmland where they feed on cereals and rape seeds, and are themselves an important food source for Peregrines and female Sparrowhawks. Bird Atlas 2007-11 recorded a 47% increase in distribution range in Great Britain since the 1968-72Breeding Atlas. Most of this increase occurred before 1988. Results from the annual Breeding Bird Survey showed a 20% decrease in the breeding population of Feral Pigeons in England between 1995 and 2010, contrasting with increases in Scotland and Wales.
    The situation in Wiltshire conforms to the national pattern: Birds of Wiltshire recorded the species in 37% of tetrads in the breeding season while WTA2 has them in only 25% of tetrads.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.