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Rock Pigeon Life History


TownsUrban areas, farmland, and rocky cliffs. May gather in large flocks in urban parks where people feed them.Back to top


SeedsSeeds, fruits, rarely invertebrates. Pigeons also readily eat food intentionally or unintentionally left by people, including bread crumbs and littered food.Back to top


Nest Placement

BuildingMales typically choose the nest site, then sit in place and coo to attract a mate. The site is a nook, cranny, or ledge on either cliffs or manmade structures, often beneath eaves or an overhang. Pigeons may nest in stairwells, in rooms of abandoned buildings, or rain gutters.

Nest Description

During nest building, the female sits on the nest and makes a flimsy platform of straw, stems, and sticks from materials brought to her one at a time by the male. Pigeons reuse their nests many times, and they don't carry away the feces of their nestlings the way many birds do. This means that over time the lightweight nest grows into a sturdy, potlike mound, sometimes incorporating unhatched eggs and mummies of dead nestlings.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-3 eggs
Number of Broods:1-6 broods
Incubation Period:18 days
Nestling Period:25-32 days
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless, with sparse yellow or white down.
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Ground ForagerPigeons peck at food on the ground and drink by placing their bill in water, using it like a straw. When threatening a rival, pigeons may bow and coo, inflating their throat and walking in a circle. A male pigeon courts his mate by bowing, cooing, inflating his throat, and strutting in a circle around the female. The pair may preen one another and the male may grasp the female’s bill, regurgitating food as a courtship gesture. When ready to mate, the female crouches and the males jumps on her back. The male brings one twig or stem at a time to the female to build a nest. He incubates the eggs from mid-morning to late afternoon; she takes her turn in late afternoon and overnight to mid-morning. Both parents brood the young and feed them by regurgitating a milky liquid secreted by the lining of the birds' crops.Back to top


Low ConcernRock Pigeons are abundant and widespread, so it may come as a surprize to learn that North American populations declined by 46% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 120 million with 7% living in the U.S., 2% in Canada, and 2% in Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Rock Pigeon is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. Rock Pigeons' adaptability and ability to thrive in urban areas has allowed them to disperse into and colonize almost every area of the globe.Back to top


Lowther, Peter E. and Richard F. Johnston. (2014). Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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