- 11.8–14.2 in
- 19.7–26.4 in
- 9.3–13.4 oz
- Larger than a Mourning Dove; smaller than a crow.
- Pigeon biset (French)
- Paloma bravia (Spanish)
- Rock Dove, Domestic Pigeon (English)
- Pigeons can find their way home, even if released from a distant location blindfolded. They can navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic fields, and perhaps also by using sound and smell. They can also use cues based on the position of the sun.
- Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that pigeons were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago. The birds have such a long history with humans that it's impossible to tell where the species' original range was.
- Rock Pigeons carried messages for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I and II, saving lives and providing vital strategic information.
- Charles Darwin kept pigeons for many years after returning from his five-year voyage on the Beagle. His observations on the great variety of pigeon breeds, and the huge differences found between captive breeds and wild pigeons, helped him formulate some aspects of his theory of evolution.
- Pigeons come in many different shades and plumage patterns. People have named some of the common forms, so keep an eye out for these varieties: The typical “blue-bar” form (a bluish-gray bird with two black bands on the wing and a black tip to the tail); a “red bar” version (similarly marked, but with rusty red replacing bluish gray); “checker” (birds that have spots on the wings); “spread” (all black or all gray); “pied” (birds of any color that are splotched with white); and mostly red or mostly white forms.
- One domestic homing pigeon, a “retired” U.S. Army Signal Corps bird named Levi, lived to be 31 years old. Feral Rock Pigeons have shorter life expectancies, averaging only 2.4 years. However, a Kansas bird was 6 years, 2 weeks old when it was recaptured and rereleased.
Urban areas, farmland, and rocky cliffs. May gather in large flocks in urban parks where people feed them.
Seeds, fruits, rarely invertebrates. Pigeons also readily eat food intentionally or unintentionally left by people, including bread crumbs and littered food.
- Clutch Size
- 1–3 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 1-6 broods
- Incubation Period
- 18 days
- Nestling Period
- 25–32 days
- Egg Description
- Condition at Hatching
- Helpless, with sparse yellow or white down.
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.
Males 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.
© René Corado / WFVZ
© René Corado / WFVZ
Pigeons 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.
Rock Pigeons are abundant and widespread, so it may come as a surprize to learn that North American populations declined by 45% between 1966 and 2014, 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 2014 State of the 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.
- Johnston, Richard F. 1992. Rock Pigeon (Columba livia). In The Birds of North America, No. 13 (A. Poole, Ed.). The Birds of North America Online, Ithaca, New York.
- Lowther, Peter E. and Richard F. Johnston. 2014. Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), In The Birds of North America, No. 13 (A. Poole, Ed.). The Birds of North America Online, Ithaca, New York.
- Erickson, Laura. 2008. Bird of Paradox. BirdScope vol. 22, no. 3.
- Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2014. North American Breeding Bird Survey 1966–2014 Analysis.