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One species, the Atoll Fruit Dove, has adapted to taking insects and small reptiles.
Some ground feeding species (granivorous species) eat fruit and take insects and worms.
The dovecote has played an essential role in the domestication of the pigeon throughout history, with facilities ranging from extremely crude early examples in the form of basic clay pots through to highly ornate detached buildings housing many thousands of birds in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Pigeons were housed and bred within these structures for food, their excrement (which was used as fertiliser and as an ingredient for gunpowder), sport and as messengers.
This confirms that the pigeon was being bred in dedicated facilities over 2200 years ago.
The Sicilian historian Diadorous, writing about the period circa 300 BC, also described a mud building with a reed thatched roof that was used to house domesticated pigeons, further confirming that organised domestication had been established in this period.
European population estimated at between 17 and 28 million birds.
The sport involves each participant using captive pigeons, released from several pigeon lofts or dovecotes at the same time, and to lure as many birds as possible away from adjoining lofts using specially trained pigeons.
The captured birds were either killed or held for ransom.
However, it is likely that rock doves were domesticated by Neolithic man as far back as 10,000 years ago in and around the alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Characteristics and Attributes: The first mention of the domestication of the rock dove was found in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets (pictographical writing on clay tablets) dating back over 5000 years.
The feral pigeon has few if any natural predators, with man being the main threat to the bird in areas of human habitation.