I may here give a curious instance of compulsion leading to changed habits: the banks of the Nile above lat. 28 deg 30' are perpendicular for a long distance, so that when the river is full the pigeons cannot alight on the shore to drink, and Mr. Skirving repeatedly saw whole flocks settle on the water, and drink whilst they floated down the stream. These flocks seen from a distance resembled flocks of gulls on the surface of the sea.
If any domestic race had descended from a species which was not social, or which built its nest and roosted in trees (6/4. In works written on the pigeon by fanciers I have sometimes observed the mistaken belief expressed that the species which naturalists called ground-pigeons (in contradistinction to arboreal pigeons) do not perch and build on trees. In these same works by fanciers wild species resembling the chief domestic races are often said to exist in various parts of the world; but such species are quite unknown to naturalists.) the sharp eyes of fanciers would assuredly have detected some vestige of so different an aboriginal habit. For we have reason to believe that aboriginal habits are long retained under domestication. Thus with the common ass we see signs of its original desert life in its strong dislike to cross the smallest stream of water, and in its pleasure in rolling in the dust. The same strong dislike to cross a stream is common to the camel, which has been domesticated from a very ancient period. Young pigs, though so tame, sometimes squat when frightened, and thus try to conceal themselves even on an open and bare place. Young turkeys, and occasionally even young fowls, when the hen gives the danger-cry, run away and try to hide themselves, like young partridges or pheasants, in order that their mother may take flight, of which she has lost the power. The musk-duck (Cairina moschata) in its native country often perches and roosts on trees (6/5. Sir R. Schomburgk in 'Journal R. Geograph. Soc.' volume 13 1844 page 32.), and our domesticated musk-ducks, though such sluggish birds, "are fond of perching on the tops of barns, walls, etc., and, if allowed to spend the night in the hen-house, the female will generally go to roost by the side of the hens, but the drake is too heavy to mount thither with ease." (6/6. Rev. E.S. Dixon 'Ornamental Poultry' 1848 pages 63, 66.) We know that the dog, however well and regularly fed, often buries, like the fox, any superfluous food; and we see him turning round and round on a carpet, as if to trample down grass to form a bed; we see him on bare pavements scratching backwards as if to throw earth over his excrement, although, as I believe, this is never effected even where there is earth. In the delight with which lambs and kids crowd together and frisk on the smallest hillock, we see a vestige of their former alpine habits.
We have therefore good reason to believe that all the domestic races of the pigeon are descended either from some one or from several species which both roosted and built their nests on rocks, and were social in disposition. As only five or six wild species have these habits, and make any near approach in structure to the domesticated pigeon, I will enumerate them.
[Firstly, the Columba leuconota resembles certain domestic varieties in its plumage, with the one marked and never-failing difference of a white band which crosses the tail at some distance from the extremity. This species, moreover, inhabits the Himalaya, close to the limit of perpetual snow; and therefore, as Mr. Blyth has remarked, is not likely to have been the parent of our domestic breeds, which thrive in the hottest countries. Secondly, the C. rupestris, of Central Asia, which is intermediate (6/7. 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1859 page 400.) between the C. leuconota and livia; but has nearly the same coloured tail as the former species. Thirdly, the Columba littoralis builds and roosts, according to Temminck, on rocks in the Malayan archipelago; it is white, excepting parts of the wing and the tip of the tail, which are black; its legs are livid-coloured, and this is a character not observed in any adult domestic pigeon; but I need not have mentioned this species or the closely-allied C.