Have you ever seen a pigeon and wondered what it was? Maybe you’re not sure if it’s a pigeon or a dove, or perhaps you’re just curious about the different types of pigeons out there. Either way, understanding what a pigeon looks like can be fascinating and informative.
Pigeons are one of the most common birds in the world, yet many people don’t know much about them. They have unique features that make them stand out from other birds, and their behavior is also interesting to observe. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just curious, learning about pigeons can be a fun and educational experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the physical characteristics of pigeons, their behavior, and the different types of pigeons you may encounter. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of what a pigeon looks like and why they are such fascinating birds.
What Is a Pigeon?
Pigeons are often referred to as rock doves or rock pigeons. These birds are mostly blue-grey with iridescent feathers on their necks, two black bands on their wings, and a black-tipped tail. However, their color can vary significantly, and there are all-white rock pigeons and variants that are mostly red or black.
Rock doves prefer living on agricultural land and are known to live in large flocks. They spend their time walking in groups, searching for food on the ground. They can be found in cities, towns, fields, and rocky cliffs.
Pigeons like to nest in the crags of cliffs and create similar nests in cities, building nests under eaves, rain gutters, and abandoned stairwells. These delicate birds may have dark feathers and are known for having the largest ranges.
Physical Description & Traits
Pigeons are a familiar sight in urban and suburban areas, known for their large size, small heads, and short legs. They typically have gray-blue feathers with iridescent colors around their necks and chests. Most pigeons also have two dark bands on their wings and a band crossing their tail feathers.
It’s important to note that pigeons are often confused with mourning doves, which are smaller and have long, pointed tails. While both birds may be found throughout the United States, they have distinct differences in appearance.
Pigeons, also known as rock doves, are notorious for nesting high above the ground on man-made structures like roofs, eaves, stadiums in cities, bridges, grain elevators, and barns in rural areas.
Although they can damage crops and plants, their droppings are the primary reason for their nuisance status. Pigeons tend to gather in large groups, causing their feces to accumulate rapidly. Prolonged exposure to their droppings can lead to the spread of diseases like histoplasmosis.
The Columba livia, commonly known as the pigeon or dove, belongs to the bird order Columbiformes and the family Columbidae, which includes 315 different species. The word ‘pigeon’ is derived from the Latin word ‘pipio’, meaning ‘young cheeping bird’, while ‘dove’ is of Norse origin and first appeared in the 14th century as ‘dove’ or ‘douve’. The Latin name ‘Columba Livia translates to ‘dove’ or ‘bird of leaden or blue-grey colour’.
There are 12 recognized subspecies of Columba livia, including C. l. Livia, C. L. Atlantis, C. l. canariensis, C. l. gymnocyclus, C. l. targia, C. L. nigricans, C. L. dakhlae, C. L. schimperi, C. L. intermedia, C. l. Palestine, C. L. gaddi, and C. l. neglecta. Additionally, there are 350 recorded varieties of this bird.
The feral pigeon, also known as the rock dove or blue rock pigeon, is the most common variety and is estimated to have a population of 10-15 million in Europe alone. The wild pigeon is found in coastal areas, while the feral pigeon is almost exclusively found in areas of human habitation.
The Columba livia is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, and is distributed worldwide except in the Sahara Desert, Antarctica, and the high Arctic.
Description (adult of the nominate subspecies of the rock pigeon):
The bird in question is approximately 32-37 cm in length and has a wingspan of 64-72 cm. It has a dark bluish-grey head, neck, and chest with a glossy, greenish, and reddish-purple iridescence around the neck and wing feathers.
Its iris is orange or red with a pale inner ring (adult) or brown or greyish brown (juveniles). The bird has a black bill with an off-white cere and red feet and legs.
It also has distinctive twin black wing bars and white lower back feathers.
Are Pigeons All Over the World the Same?
While rock pigeons are a common sight in many cities around the world, they are just one of the 351 recognized pigeon species worldwide. These species can be found in various habitats and regions across the globe.
It’s fascinating to think about the diversity of these birds and the unique characteristics that make each species distinct. As bird enthusiasts, we can appreciate and admire the beauty and complexity of these creatures, no matter where we find them.
What Kinds of Pigeons Are Most Common in the World?
The following table displays the 10 most frequently occurring pigeon species and their respective locations.
|Type of Pigeon||Where the Pigeon Lives|
|1||Rock dove||Lives worldwide|
|2||Hill pigeon||Lives in China, the Himalayas, and Central Asia|
|3||Snow pigeon||Lives in Altay, Tian Shan, the Himalayas, and Central China|
|4||Speckled pigeon||Lives in Sub-Saharan Africa|
|5||White-collared Pigeon||Lives in Eritrea and Ethiopia|
|6||Stock dove||Lives in Europe and Central Asia|
|7||Yellow-eyed pigeon||Lives in Central Asia and Western China|
|8||Somali pigeon||Lives in Northeastern Somalia|
|9||Common wood pigeon||Lives from Europe to China|
|10||Trocaz pigeon||Lives in Madeira, Portugal|
Domestic pigeons raised for sport, hobby, and food cannot survive in the wild like their wild counterparts. When accidentally or intentionally released, they often require rescue and care. Palomacy frequently takes in these domestic pigeons in need of assistance.
King Pigeons are a breed of pigeon that is primarily bred for food. They are larger than feral and homing pigeons and have pure white feathers and pink beaks. Unfortunately, well-meaning individuals sometimes purchase and release King Pigeons to save them from live animal markets.
However, these pigeons are not equipped with the necessary skills to survive in the wild and face certain death. Instead, King Pigeons make great pets and aviary residents. They are tame and are used to human contact.
If you are interested in keeping a King Pigeon, it’s important to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment where it can thrive.
Racing and Homing Pigeons
Homing pigeons are versatile birds that come in a variety of colors but are most commonly blue or white. They are used for racing, weddings, events, and as pets. These birds are strong flyers with exceptional homing instincts and can be trained to return to their lofts after a race or event.
However, they can get lost or injured, and their ownership can often be traced by the information on their band. In some cases, lost homing pigeons may assimilate into wild flocks, and you may spot a banded pigeon foraging with its wild counterparts.
Fancy Pigeons are a popular hobby among pigeon fanciers and pet owners alike. These specialized breeds come in many different varieties, including Pouters, Tumblers, and Owls.
Pigeon fanciers often compete with their birds in competitions, similar to dog shows, to showcase their unique and beautiful breeds.
For those who keep fancy pigeons as pets, they offer a beautiful and interesting addition to any home. The gallery below displays just a few examples of the many different breeds of fancy pigeons available.
Feral Rock Pigeons, commonly found in urban and suburban areas, are well adapted to city and rural environments. They are the blue variety of pigeons that roost on buildings and forage for food in public plazas. In the countryside, they often roost in barns or around bridges and natural cliff areas.
Feral pigeons are known to cross-breed with domestic pigeons, passing on color and plumage variations down through generations. However, it’s important to note that wild pigeons should generally be left alone to live as wild birds unless you find an injured feral pigeon or orphaned baby pigeons.
Band-tailed Pigeons are a unique species of wild pigeon that is native to North America and the Pacific Coast. They are easily recognizable by their long, gray banded tail, white band, and iridescent patch at the nape of their neck. These pigeons are typically 14 to 18 inches in length, with a bright yellow beak and feet.
Unlike Rock Pigeons, Band-tailed Pigeons do not display a wide range of color variations. They inhabit forest edges and woodlands, both coniferous and deciduous, and spend much of their time in trees. Acorns are one of their preferred foods, but they also forage for berries, grains, mast-producing plants, and other available resources, depending on the habitat and time of year.
While pigeons may seem like ordinary birds, they are actually quite unique and fascinating creatures. From their distinctive coloring and patterns to their impressive flying abilities, there’s more to these birds than meets the eye.
Next time you see a pigeon, take a moment to appreciate all the amazing qualities that make them such a special part of our natural world.