Pigeon (Rock Pigeon)
Scientific Name: Columba livia
Pictures: (click for larger images)
A typical pigeon. Campus Corner, 7/14/04. Check out the very interesting color variation on this pigeon! By the Inverted Fountain, 7/27/04. You'll never guess where I spotted this pigeon at the 2002 LA Times Book Festival... A mostly-white pigeon I spotted in Westwood Village. 6/17/05
-Photos by Jason Finley
Description: Medium-Large. 12.5" in length (beak to tail), same size as... a pigeon. I won't even bother describing the typical one. Although: "There are many color variants, ranging from all white through rusty to all black." (eNature.com)
Commonality/Seasonality: Very common, year-round.
Location: Can be seen about Bruin Walk, and generally near outside food areas, including near restaurants in Westwood Village. A flock or two of them live on the side of Knudsen Hall, and can be seen perching way up there, or feeding at the base of trees at the bottom of the building.
Notes: Pigeons have a bad rap. Try this: Imagine you know nothing about pigeons, have no preconceptions, and have never seen one before. Now imagine first coming upon one and giving it a good looking over. Pigeons are really very pretty birds. I argue that we just don't notice it because we're so used to them and consider them a nuisance. Their familiarity is why I've tried to use them as a size reference, along with the House Sparrow.
Since they are so unafraid of humans, you can observe them close up and see a lot of behavior that's common amongst many birds. Watch the way they preen themselves and stretch, and the way they interact with each other.
You can also see some unusual color variations. I've seen an all-white one on campus before, in addition to other patterns. The color variations we see are largely a result of artificial selection. That is, people bred pigeons over hundreds of years for specific qualities, such as appearance or speed, but then some of those birds got back into the wild and their variations persist until today. Pigeons are unique in this actually, as it's very unusual for something like a weird color (artificially seleccted) to last more than a few generations when put back in the wild. You can read more about this at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Urban Bird Studies site, which has a really cool Pigeon Watch page, here: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/urbanbirds/ubs_PIWMainEN.html
Excellent L.A. blog Losanjealous has some awesome pigeon photos from downtown: http://www.losanjealous.com/2005/12/17/photo-op-downtown-pigeons-get-crazy-on/
These "cliff dweller" birds very soon adopted the campus buildings as a good substitute for the rocky cliffs of their Old World Habitat.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.