Thom Smith: Pigeons seem to be on a decline in the region

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Q: Has anyone noticed that there has been a decrease in pigeons in the area?

— Concerned

A: While others have noticed, and have been noticing since the late 1960s, the decline didn't cause me much concern.

In fact, the rock pigeon (or rock dove or just pigeon) has declined by 46 percent between 1966 and 2015

Like other early invasive animals, and plants, it was introduced to North America in the early 17th-century by colonists who brought domestic pigeons to early settlements.

One source I discovered says, "The species was first introduced to North America in 1606 at Port Royal, Nova Scotia."

Now feral (or descendants of the feral population) live across the continent into southern Canada and south through Central America.

Apparently getting off to a slow start, it became one of the most explosive of birds to be introduced to our shores!

In Faxon and Hoffman's The Birds of Berkshire County" (1900), we read, "The European House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, is the only introduced species to become firmly established in Berkshires."

The rock dove/pigeon isn't included in "Hoffmann's Guide to the Birds of New England and Eastern New York" (1904) edition.

It is not mentioned in "Berkshire Birds" by Bartlett Hendricks (1950), although included in the 1994 revision as "Our common pigeons." "The Birds of Massachusetts" (1955) by Griscom and Snyder says, "Now extensively feral almost through the state.

For many years, a few pairs nested on the sea cliffs at Nahant, some of them closely reverting to the ancestral coloration."

Perusing "Christmas Bird Counts" by local birders we discover rock dove/pigeon in 2016/17 counts revealed in North Berkshire (N.) 238; Central Berkshire (C.) 260; South Berkshire (S.) 211. Looking back at 2005/6, N. 295; C. 330; S. 278. And in 2002/3, still higher numbers, N. 741; C. 841; S. 444.

Why the decline is subject for another Naturewatch.

REPORTS AND COMMENTS

In celebration of our natural world, please take action now to help preserve the beauty of birdsong.

To help prevent bird deaths and injuries from home window collisions, here are five simple tips:

- Apply do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques, such as contrast, patterned film, on windows most at risk;

- Purchase proven and effective bird-deterrent window products;

- Place birdfeeders and/or birdbaths less than a half meter from your windows;

- Move indoor houseplants away from your windows;

- Leave exterior screens in front of windows.

From: FLAP Canada is dedicated to safeguarding migratory birds in the urban environment through education, policy development, research, rescue and rehabilitation. For much more information go to www.flap.org. Ellen Hand provided this timely information.

Q: Last year, between March 13 and 24, I received 16 reports of bears prowling about neighborhoods in The Berkshires and Southern Vermont.

Although the most interesting one came this year with a report from Mark, who wrote, "Before the recent snowfall [blizzard], newspapers ran pictures of bears coming out of hibernation and getting into bird feeders.

With the heavy snowfall and cold returning, do bears go back to sleep or do they tough it out and keep foraging?

A: During the blizzard they probably denned up again to wait out the worst of it, only to resume their search for a hearty meal. — TS

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at Naturewatch@live.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201

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