This argument is rendered much stronger when we hear (I append in a note (6/22. Domestic pigeons pair readily with the allied C. oenas (Bechstein 'Naturgesch. Deutschlands' b. 4 s. 3); and Mr. Brent has made the same cross several times in England, but the young were very apt to die at about ten days old; one hybrid which he reared (from C. oenas and a male Antwerp Carrier) paired with a Dragon, but never laid eggs. Bechstein further states (s. 26) that the domestic pigeon will cross with C. palumbus, Turtur risoria and T. vulgaris, but nothing is said of the fertility of the hybrids, and this would have been mentioned had the fact been ascertained. In the Zoological Gardens (MS. report to me from Mr. James Hunt) a male hybrid from Turtur vulgaris and a domestic pigeon "paired with several different species of pigeons and doves, but none of the eggs were good." Hybrids from C. oenas and gymnophthalmos were sterile. In Loudon's 'Mag. of Nat. Hist.' volume 7 1834 page 154 it is said that a male hybrid (from Turtur vulgaris male, and the cream-coloured T. risoria female) paired during two years with a female T. risoria, and the latter laid many eggs, but all were sterile. MM. Boitard and Corbie ('Les Pigeons' page 235) state that the hybrids from these two turtle-doves are invariably sterile both inter se and with either pure parent. The experiment was tried by M. Corbie "avec une espece d'obstination;" and likewise by M. Mauduyt, and by M. Vieillot. Temminck also found the hybrids from these two species quite barren. Therefore, when Bechstein ('Naturgesch. Deutschlands Vogel' b. 4 s. 101) asserts that the hybrids from these two turtle-doves propagate inter se equally well with pure species, and when a writer in the 'Field' newspaper (in a letter dated November 10th, 1858) makes a similar assertion, it would appear that there must be some mistake; though what the mistake is I know not, as Bechstein at least must have known the white variety of T. risoria: it would be an unparalleled fact if the same two species sometimes produced EXTREMELY fertile, and sometimes EXTREMELY barren, offspring. In the MS. report from the Zoological Gardens it is said that hybrids from Turtur vulgaris and suratensis, and from T. vulgaris and Ectopistes migratorius, were sterile. Two of the latter male hybrids paired with their pure parents, viz. Turtur vulgaris and the Ectopistes, and likewise with T. risoria and with Columba oenas, and many eggs were produced, but all were barren. At Paris, hybrids have been raised (Isid. Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire 'Hist. Nat. Generale' tome 3 page 180) from Turtur auritus with T. cambayensis and with T. suratensis; but nothing is said of their fertility. At the Zoological Gardens of London the Goura coronata and victoriae produced a hybrid which paired with the pure G. coronata, and laid several eggs, but these proved barren. In 1860 Columba gymnophthalmos and maculosa produced hybrids in these same gardens.) all the cases which I have collected) that hardly a single well-ascertained instance is known of hybrids between two true species of pigeons being fertile, inter se, or even when crossed with one of their pure parents.


Excluding certain important characteristic differences, the chief races agree most closely both with each other and with C. livia in all other respects. As previously observed, all are eminently sociable; all dislike to perch or roost, and refuse to build in trees; all lay two eggs, and this is not a universal rule with the Columbidae; all, as far as I can hear, require the same time for hatching their eggs; all can endure the same great range of climate; all prefer the same food, and are passionately fond of salt; all exhibit (with the asserted exception of the Finnikin and Turner which do not differ much in any other character) the same peculiar gestures when courting the females; and all (with the exception of Trumpeters and Laughers, which likewise do not differ much in any other character) coo in the same peculiar manner, unlike the voice of any other wild pigeon.

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book