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Terra Metropolitan Pigeons: Volume 1

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By Sheather888   |   
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© 2016 - 2020 Sheather888
Two iconic representatives of the domestic pigeon in Terra Metropolitan Earth, the year 2600.

Left: A basic utility race, the Forager. This name refers to a general type of large utility breed pigeon, including many established breeds and non-breed races. The Atlantic Forager, here pictured, is a typical representative of the type and the most common breed in New York aviculture. Large males foragers can weigh as much as four pounds, more than four times the weight of most pigeons.

Right: A blue-pied crested Microraptorine pigeon, a very popular and highly varied ornamental breed originating in the north of England in the 2300's. Microraptorines, a tailed breed, are otherwise relatively typical fancy pigeons and weigh between 10 and 16 ounces. Though this individual's uneven markings would disqualify him from the show bench in official showing, he is in other respects an excellent example of his breed, with an even split tail fan and smooth, even wing feathering on his legs which stops at the ankle and does not interfere with walking.



The domestic/feral pigeon, Columba livia domestica, is one of the most widespread animals in the world and thrives in the urban ecosystem. Pigeons are almost impossibly well-suited to the city environment by their nature, for the tall ledges of buildings closely mirror their ancestral habitat in the rocky mountain cliff sides of western Europe and a generalist grainivorous diet translates perfectly well from seeds to human refuse, stale crumbs and dropped hot dog buns and anything else rich and starchy that humans find so palatable. They breed rapidly and a pair, which tends to mate for life, can produce as many as 20 offspring every year for up to fifteen seasons, and the young go from bald, altricial nestlings to fledglings taking their first flights in three weeks and attain near to their adult weight within a month's time - traits that make them as well-suited to a life in the wild as to being domesticated by man. In Terra Metropolis, the domestic pigeon has risen from almost obscurity to being the second most abundantly kept species of poultry in the world, behind only the domestic chicken, by merit of their natural adaptability to modern urban agriculture. They are small, quiet, productive and easy to house in the smallest allotment. They are easily fed, and the majority of them can be trusted to fly freely by day and return on their own accord in the evening, having fed themselves on the wild riches of the city at no cost to their owner. Having been domesticated for upwards of 5,000 years and likely even longer for food, for pets, and to carry messages, the resurgence of the domestic pigeon in agriculture is but a continuation of a long relationship.

Modern domesticated pigeons have been bred and engineered into a myriad of distinct variations. Forms exist for beauty and function, though the most popular modern forms try to combine both attributes. With a modern emphasis on sustainable agriculture, where free-range livestock is the ideal, the type of pigeons being bred for human consumption has shifted in most regions from plump and nearly flightless barnyard birds to very large, lean, and powerful flying forms, not so much specific breeds but rather a general body-type, known as Foragers, which are as much as four times the size of an average wild pigeon with very wide, pointed wings able to carry them far and wide over the city in search of food. Flying the city by day in great flocks of hundreds or more, birds from countless different owners mingle and fly in mixed flocks with their feral cousins to wherever food is abundant, sometimes traveling over one hundred miles in a day round trip. Forager-type pigeons are taller, heavier, and longer than wild pigeons and overall are very bold and imposing birds that are able to intimidate smaller wild competitors and out-compete them when food is scarce. They are also able to eat a wider variety of foods by merit of much larger, slightly hooked beaks, which even allow them to add animal foods to their diet including young rodents and insects as large as locusts in addition to normal seed and grain-based fare. This competitive edge means that where forager pigeons are very abundant, typical street pigeons tend to be sparse. In the evening, the foragers showcase perhaps the single most highly-selected attribute, a remarkable homing instinct - foragers are derived largely from homing-breed pigeons, with some out-crossing - that brings each bird back to its familiar roost before nightfall, no matter how far it has ranged by day. Forager pigeons are by far the most efficient livestock to raise on a budget, being able to find all of the food they need on their own accord in most urban environments, making them effectively free to maintain and subsequently so popular - more than half of city garden have at least a small flock. The only requirement to teach them to return home is to confine them until the age of four months and ensure that in that time they are allowed pick a mate - which they will retain for life - before being turned loose, for otherwise they may stray to greener pastures in search of companionship later on. As forager pigeons return to their coops to roost and also serve to displace wild flocks which do their roosting over dwellings and upon city ledges where they soil the ground below them, cities encourage pigeon-keeping, which is both a cheap and sustainable source of food for all people and but one of many ways in which the population of pesky wild birds is kept in check. The exceptionally large size of the forager pigeon is a multi-purpose development; it provides more food when the bird is slaughtered and leaves the pigeon less vulnerable to bad weather and outdoor environmental conditions, but it also serves to protect them from whillawhispers, which will not readily go after so large a prey animal.

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The majority of pigeons in the world today and almost all selectively raised breeds are transgenic or genetically engineered in some respect, but most don't necessarily show their modifications, having been heavily mixed and matched through breeding in the many decades leading up to the modern day. The most natural birds would be the basic street pigeons, or ferals, which have not changed much from their wild ancestor, the rock dove, but even these may carry latent genetic holdovers from distant crossing with owned birds at some point in their ancestry. Generally the main changes that remain notable within the wild pigeon population include higher egg production, with modern feral pigeons often raising larger clutches than the normal two of the ancestral pigeon, as well as increased immunity to avian diseases. The most unique, however, is surely the occasional presence of an elongated and fully-formed "raptor tail", the result of a modification to a single genetic trigger introduced into captive members of the species in the early 22nd century in early experimentation in restoring dinosaur-like animals. The trait was novel and quite popular among hobbyists, and is single-factor dominant, meaning it took only a single tailed parent to produce a clutch of 50% tailed offspring. As a result of the mutation's ready appearance, it quickly found its way into almost every modern breed, both production and ornamental, as well as into wild populations worldwide which occasionally met with escaped domesticated birds and exchanged their gametes. Today almost any pigeon, wild or owned, can occasionally give rise to an offspring with a tail, for the gene can lie latent for generations and crop up at the most unexpected time. Though it may reduce their agility in flight, many pigeons nevertheless survive the slight handicap and live to reproductive age in the wild. Some cities, such as London, are particularly well-known for large populations of tailed street pigeons, which seem to survive because of their ornate tails; they may prove more attractive to female pigeons than normally-tailed males. This may be the result of the pigeon's tail being basically a handicap feature not unlike that of a peacock - basically showing a potential mate that this male is clearly very fit if he can survive lugging about this big feathery tuft on his rump and not find himself caught by a predator. When in combination with "hind-wing" feathers on their feet - normally a feature restricted to captivity - the resulting pigeons can exhibit a very pronounced four-winged paravian appearance, though of course the similarity is entirely superficial and the additional hind plumage, carried without instinct on how to use it, actually reduces the birds' aerodynamics considerably. Selectively-raised breeds such as the aptly-named Microraptorine, however, strive for a bird as close to an ancestral early avialan as possible, with hind wing feathers of a semi-functional nature rather than random tufts of flight feathers down all over the toes and a conservatively plumed tail without extravagant ornamentation, while other breeds have been selected instead for extremely showy plumage down the tail and all over the body, and a very artificial appearance. When a tail occurs in a production breed bird, it may be encouraged simply as an additional cut of meat when the bird is processed, and some meat-type pigeons have very large, heavy tails that are considered a delicacy. Tailed pigeons exhibit a noticeably modified stance when walking compared to tailless pigeons, carrying their bodies more horizontally to compensate for the change in their center of balance.


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Comments14
anonymous's avatar
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raptorwolfss's avatar
I would love to see Microraptorine pigeon in real life and is Terra Metropolitan halted for the moment ?
adam-ant2's avatar
So in the 24th century we're gonna have four-winged dino-pigeons?
The future is looking significantly brighter.
Dank-Smirk's avatar
Mmm, bird tail…
9Weegee's avatar
9WeegeeHobbyist General Artist
Pigeons with flight feathers down the leg have already been bred media.mnn.com/assets/images/20…
CartoonBen's avatar
CartoonBenStudent Digital Artist
Their head shapes may also be near the shapes of "Right Whales".
CartoonBen's avatar
CartoonBenStudent Digital Artist
If there's anything I can describe about these giant waterfowls, not only are they big and flightless, but there is one species I came up with that are known (by me at least, which are descended from geese) to have heads and beaks shaped like something between a flamingo and a bowhead whale. So unlike some of the gamebirds who primarily ate plants and insects, the giant geese ate freshwater crustaceans that turned their feathers and beaks blue instead of pink or reddish like the present day flamingo. Other waterfowls maintained their ability to fly, only to fill in the niches of long-legged wading birds such as herons and spoonbills (but not flamingos like the geese, because I remember that someone on DeviantArt already came up with the idea of ducks living like flamingos).
CartoonBen's avatar
CartoonBenStudent Digital Artist
I came up with some future descendants of pigeons and doves in my mind too (for my two comic series). Except they are all flightless and they fill the niche for chickens, quails, and other game birds (some future columbiformes that come to mind have crest feathers on their heads just like the Crested Pigeon, the Topknot Pigeon, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon, and the extinct Choiseul Piegon). As for the game birds themselves, they grew bigger and filled in the niche for ratites such as the ostrich and the cassowary (others filled similar niches between herbivorous bird-hipped dinosaurs like the Edmontosaurus, and large ungulates such as the modern-day bison, travelling together in groups like both animals did. A few species of future waterfowls did the same, but both the waterfowls and game birds were still no bigger than some of the mammals who had similar niches).
dylan613's avatar
dylan613Hobbyist Artist
If these Microraptor-like pigeons were brought to North America in real life, would they become invasive species? I'm just asking.
Johnology's avatar
JohnologyHobbyist Digital Artist
I’m pretty sure pigeons have already become an invasive species in North America, so this probably wouldn’t be much different.
grisador's avatar
The Best known & love pest of cities....
They're now perfected ! :o
HUBLERDON's avatar
HUBLERDONHobbyist General Artist
Very interesting! Any Chickenosaurs in your world?
Sir-Conor's avatar
Sir-ConorHobbyist Digital Artist
okay this is an unusual and great idea.
anonymous's avatar
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