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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Rock Pigeon

Columba livia ORDER: COLUMBIFORMES FAMILY: COLUMBIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A common sight in cities around the world, Rock Pigeons crowd streets and public squares, living on discarded food and offerings of birdseed. In addition to the typical blue-gray bird with two dark wingbars, you'll often see flocks with plain, spotted, pale, or rusty-red birds in them. Introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1600s, city pigeons nest on buildings and window ledges. In the countryside they also nest on barns and grain towers, under bridges, and on natural cliffs.

ML Essential Set
Merlin Bird ID app

Keys to identification Help

Doves
Doves
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Larger and plumper than a Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeons are tubby birds with small heads and short legs. Their wings are broad but pointed wings and the tail is wide and rounded.

  • Color Pattern

    Variable in color, but most birds are bluish gray with two black bands on the wing and a black tip to the tail. Most birds have iridescent throat feathers. Wing patterns may include two bars, dark spots, or can be plain. The tail is usually dark tipped.

  • Behavior

    Pigeons often gather in flocks, walking or running on the ground and pecking for food. When alarmed, the flock may suddenly fly into the air and circle several times before coming down again.

  • Habitat

    Pigeons are familiar birds of cities and towns. You'll also see them around farmland and fields, as well as in their archetypal habitat, rocky cliffs.

Range Map Help

Rock Pigeon Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult dark

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult dark
    • Variable
    • Small round head and large chest
    • Dark purplish-gray overall
    • Pink feet
    • © Zac Peterson, New York City, New York, February 2007
  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Variable patterns of gray and brownish
    • Iridescent feathers on neck can be green and purple
    • Reddish eye
    • White cere at base of short bill
    • © cdbtx, Monroe, Washington, May 2008
  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Checkered dark and gray
    • Iridescent feathers on neck can be green and purple
    • Pink feet
    • Short, square tail
    • © Laura Erickson, Sout Beach, Florida, November 2003
  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Dark and light gray mottled back
    • White cere at base of short bill
    • © Gregg Lee, Somervell Co., Texas, July 2006
  • Adult white

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult white
    • Overall white (may show variable amount of color and white)
    • Long wings and short, square tail
    • © Maria Corcacas
  • Adult brown

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult brown
    • Variably rusty above and below, often with pale wingtips
    • © Keri Leaman, Boston, Massachusetts, April 2007
  • Adult brown

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult brown
    • Variably rusty above and below
    • Wingtips usually pale
    • © Bonnie Forrester, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 2009
  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Almost all forms show pale rump
    • Broad, gray tail with dark terminal band
    • Fairly long, pointed, hawk-like wings
    • © Jay McGowan, Dryden, New York, April 2009
  • Adult

    Rock Pigeon

    Adult
    • Almost all forms show whitish underwing with dark border
    • Fairly long, pointed, hawk-like wings
    • © Jay McGowan, Dryden, New York, April 2009
  • Adults

    Rock Pigeon

    Adults
    • Pattern extremely variable
    • Congregates in large flocks
    • © Jay McGowan, Dryden, New York, April 2009

Similar Species

Similar Species

Band-tailed Pigeons are grayish overall, with yellow legs and bill and a white collar on the back of the neck. Eurasian Collared-Doves are pale grayish-tan overall with a black mark on the back of the neck. Mourning Doves are gray-brown with black spots on the wings; they're more slender and have a long, pointed tail. White-winged Doves have a white patch on the wings, visible both in flight and at rest, as a strip along the edge of the wing.

Regional Differences

Rock Pigeons with red plumage may be more common in the southwestern United States than in northern and eastern areas.

Backyard Tips

Pigeons are attracted to open areas where they can find food on the ground. However, seed on the ground can attract rodents, so it’s best to provide only as much food as the pigeons can eat during their visit, or offer grain such as dried corn, peas, or sorghum on a platform feeder. In areas where pigeons are considered pests, some cities have ordinances against feeding pigeons.

Find This Bird

Look for Rock Pigeons in urban parks and neighborhoods, around farms, under highway or railroad bridges, and around tall rocky cliffs.

Get Involved

Pigeons can give students a whole new way to look at the world. Read the article "Pigeons Can Make a Difference."

Rock Pigeons are a focal bird species for the Celebrate Urban Birds! project. Conduct a 10-minute count and record whether or not you see pigeons.

You Might Also Like

Bird of Paradox — Rock Pigeons May Be More Helpful Than We Realize

Rock Pigeon: Noble in its proper place (Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center)

Darwin's Other Birds: Common domestic pigeons may well have provided the main inspiration for Charles Darwin. Read the article at Living Bird magazine

Pigeon Color Morphs poster

A Tale of Three Superdoves, Living Bird, Spring 2014