Pigeon, or Columba, L. a genus of birds, consisting of 70 species, of which the oenas, or Domestic Pigeon, is a native of Britain. It is in general of a blueish ash-colour, and weighs from twelve to sixteen ounces.
This bird, with all its numerous varieties of tumblers, carriers, powts, etc. is derived from one species, denominated the stock-dove. In a wild state, it breeds in the holes of rocks, and in hollow-trees; but is easily reclaimed, and induced to build in artificial cavities, assigned for its habitation, where it becomes completely domesticated.
Pigeons are uncommonly prolific : and, though the hens, or Doves, lay only two eggs for each brood' yet those reared about the house, and suffered to fly abroad In quest of food, breed eight times in the year; nay, the species termed monthly pigeons, produce young ones almost every month : hence, it has been computed, that from one pair of these birds, if properly managed, the astonishing number of 1 4,760 may be obtained in the course of four years. It is farther remarkable, that the-eggs laid in the afternoon are generally addled; that the dove sits on her eggs from three o'clock in the afternoon till eight in the morning; that the male performs this office during the rest of the time; and that the term of incubation is from 17 to 20 days.—They attain an age of 13 years; though, after the fourth year, their fecundity begins to diminish. An open situation, and a free exposure to the sun's rays, equally contribute to their prospe- rity : while common salt and nitre ought to be frequently given them, in order to preserve their health.
Pigeons are esteemed as a deli- cacy at the table, especially when young, and properly fed :—their dung is an excellent manure for particular soils (see vol. ii. p.198) ; beside which, these birds are of great service in farms where wheat is chiefly cultivated ; because they devour the seeds of weeds, that would otherwise impede the growth of the corn.