Rock Dove or Pigeon (Columba livia)


Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family:    Columbidae
Size:    Length: 12 to 14 inches (30 to 35 cm)
Weight: 1 to 1.25 pounds (0.45 to 0.68 kg)
Diet: Seeds, berries and grains
Distribution: Worldwide
Young:  2 chicks, at least once a year
Animal Predators:  Opossums, raccoons and birds of prey
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Up to 35 years



·     About 70,000 pigeons are used annually in biological and medical research in the USA.

·     The passenger pigeon has been extinct since 1914.

·     The use of pigeons for their navigational abilities in delivering messages began more than 5,000 years ago.

·     Pigeons can maintain speeds of up to 44 miles (70 km) per hour for thousands of miles.

·     The rock dove was apparently the first bird to be domesticated, in approximately 4500 BC.



Rock doves have a pale grey body, a bluish-grey head, black bars on their wings, and pink feet. Colour variations such as brown and/or white birds have been derived through breeding domesticated stock.



Originally natives of the cliffs and rocky ledges found in Europe, North Africa and southwestern Asia, these birds have become common throughout North America from central Canada southward. They were introduced to North America as domestic birds over 100 years ago. All feral pigeons in the New World are descendants of this early domestic stock. In their wild state, they live near cliffs and build their nests in rocky crevices. In cities, they try to duplicate their original habitat by substituting skyscrapers for cliffs. 


Feeding Habits

Pigeons feed in the early morning and mid-afternoon and the bulk of their diet is made up of seeds, with the remainder consisting of berries and grain. Pigeons will also eat handouts such as popcorn, peanuts and bread.



Pigeons have no set breeding season. When a female has conceived, the male builds the nest and the eggs are laid shortly after completion. Both parents incubate the eggs and are very protective of their young. The eggs hatch in approximately 19 days, and the young birds feed on the mother’s milk, which is located in her throat. In about five weeks, the babies are able to fly. Parents feed their offspring until they are almost the same size as adults. 



Pigeons have become a familiar sight in cities around the world. These gentle creatures are easily tamed and gather around, making cooing noises when people come to feed them in city parks. They are the only birds to drink by immersing their beaks in water and drinking through their nostrils in one continuous motion. Their heads bob back and forth while walking or running. Rock doves are extremely social birds—they gather in large flocks while feeding, roosting or sunning and can be seen feeding harmoniously alongside other species, such as sparrows, mourning doves and robins. Pigeons are monogamous birds, and remained devoted to one mate for life. However, if one mate dies or is separated from its partner, the remaining bird will eventually seek out a new mate. 



Rock dove populations are thriving and are not of conservation concern at this time. 



Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (1999)