Reports observations on Indian pigeons from David Scott at Hansi. EB adds remarks on Indian breeds he has encountered. Suggests Egypt, Turkey, and Syria would be good places from which to obtain specimens. Believes domestic races are all descended from Columba livia; their calls are all similar and they pair indiscriminately.
Notes for Mr
The following remarks on Indian Pigeons are transcribed from
a letter, recd
“For the fancy Pigeons, I put in one column the English names, with what I
believe to be the native names opposite; and I take them according to
size”.— Vide overleaf. Mem.
That our wild Pigeons here have pink feet; & that I have now obtained
Bald-pates of the typical colouring, but with white rump.
’ 2. Si maab
’ 3 Shirazi Powter Gul phula (literally full gullet, gula!)— Fantails Lukkha Tumblers Girra-baz
’ Almond Choa-chundun
’ Ground Lotun Carrier (native name unknown). Nuns Muki
“Two other native names I know nothing of, viz.—(illegible).
“The three first I believe are all what are called Runts at home.— As its name betokens, the first comes from Kábul; and I had a lot of them at Pesháwur, where I remember paying four rupees for a pair. They are very large, generally blue-speckled, with more or less white. Often like what is called ‘feather-about’. They are heavy clumsy birds, and very bad breeders; for I never remember above one young in a nest brought up”. (This is evidently what is here known as the Bághdád breed!)
“The Simaab or ‘silver-water’ is, I think, merely so called from the colour resembling quicksilver. The only pair I ever saw came from Calcutta.” (An ash-coloured Shirázi, apparently; here common enough, with upper-parts silvery-grey, more or less dark, the same as in most Gulls and Terns.)
“The Shirázi is very common, of various colours,—black & white, blue & white, or red & white. They are large heavy birds, also bad breeders, & useless brutes” (sic, after much trouble to make it out! Well, our Indian runts bear names which indicate a western origin, so far as this country is concerned; i.e. Shiráz, Bághdád, & Kábul).
“The Powter I have never seen in India, though it does exist, introduced I think from home”.—
“The Fantails are precisely like those at home, but generally indifferently bred. I have seen the blue bar-winged ones at home, but not here”. (N.B. I have got another white fantail with black tail, making a pair. Are there English fantails with occipital top-knot, & with long feathers on toes?) Scott adds, “I have seen Fantails generally bare-legged”.
“Palmon (?) is a name applied to all kinds having feathered legs. Some here have handsome tufts on head, like ½ bred ‘Ruffs’. The Yábu is like a ½ bred ‘Ruff’, but has a few feathers like a tuft just over the beak. I have only seen one.
“The Mukis are, I believe, simply ‘Nuns’. They are small, and black, blue, or slate-colour, with white heads and white flight-feathers. They are handsome, but bad breeders.
“The first kind of Tumbler is that kept for flying. They are generally blue with light-coloured eyes (Here dark-legged, black bill, pearl eye, & small & delicately made). They are of every colour here.
“The Choa Chundun are, I think, but am not sure, ‘Almond Tumblers’. They are of various colours, with short heads, and very small bills; & the bird itself is small. The Lotuns are a kind that roll about on the ground.
“What is called the Carrier here is not the real kind, but has got the name from having merely a fleshy knob on beak, and the eyes also surrounded by a fleshy margin. Those I have seen were thick-necked brutes, a shade better than common Pigeons.
“Delhi & Lucknow are the places for Pigeons, and I have never been stationed at either.” (N.B. Both Musálman capitals!)
Thus much verbatim et libratim. You will observe that
- f1 1849.f1The date is based on CD's annotation.
- f2 1849.f2David Scott of the Bengal Medical Establishment was assistant surgeon to the Hurrianah light infantry battalion stationed at Hansi (East-India register and army list, for 1856).
- f3 1849.f3Dixon 1851, p. 101, illustrates a nun, a barb, and a jacobin.
- f4 1849.f4Dixon 1851, p. 100, quotes Coenraad Jacob Temminck's description of the most beautiful specimens of nuns as ‘those which are black, but have the quill feathers and the head white: they are called Nonnains-Maurins.’
- f5 1849.f5Dixon 1851, p. 86.
- f6 1849.f6W. G. Browne 1799, p. 264: ‘This beautiful bird [guinea-fowl] is found in great numbers in Fûr … They are carried as a profitable commodity to Kahira, where however, in a domestic state, it is said they seldom or never breed.’ CD recorded having read this work in 1838 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 4a).
- f7 1849.f7David William Mitchell had been secretary of the Zoological Society of London since 1847.
- f8 1849.f8In his abstract of this letter, CD wrote only: ‘Letter 14— Notes on domestic Pigeons’ (DAR 203).