Once considered a nuisance and actively exterminated, the rock pigeon is now one of the most popular and familiar urban birds in the world. With a wide range of color variations, these birds add colorful avian life to many cityscapes.
Rock Pigeon, Pigeon, Rock Dove, Feral Pigeon, Flying Rat (slang)
- Bill: Short and slightly curved with a white crop at the base
- Size: 13-14 inches long with 25-inch wingspan, stocky body and pointed wings
- Colors: Blue gray, black, white, brown, iridescent
- Markings: Pigeons have a wide range of color and marking variations due to escaped domestic birds and fancy stock breeding. Typical pigeons are a blue gray overall with an iridescent neck that reflects blue, green and purple. Birds may have thick black wing bars and most pigeons are light underneath the wings. Eyes and legs are orange or reddish. Additional color variations include white, brown, tan or mottled birds.
Grass, seeds, grains, berries, scraps, trash
Habitat and Migration:
Rock pigeons are common throughout the continental United States, southern Canada, Mexico and urban areas throughout the world. These birds thrive in human habitats and are most populous in large cities but can also be found in suburban and rural locations. Pigeons do not migrate.
Rock pigeons can seem very vocal in large flocks. The typical call is a rapidly undulating “croooo-croooo” sound.
Because pigeons are so used to humans, they often seem semi-tame and will readily approach passersby for food. Large flocks of pigeons are constantly foraging or birds will roost in close contact with one another. Pigeons are very agile fliers that can reach speeds up to 85 miles per hour with their tapered, falcon-like wings.
Rock pigeons can brood at any time of year and both the male and female parents will tend the eggs during the 17-19 day incubation period. The fledgling phase lasts 25-35 days and for the first few days both parents will feed the young birds with regurgitated crop milk. One brood consists of 1-2 eggs, and pigeons can raise five or more broods per year.
Rock pigeons are ground feeding birds that will be attracted to kitchen and bread scraps as well as cracked corn or seeds spilled on the ground. Because the birds are voracious and often travel in very large flocks, many backyard birders prefer to deter pigeons from visiting with specialized spikes on roosting areas and by choosing feeders that minimize spilled seed.
- Band-Tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata)
- White-Crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala)
Rock Pigeon Photo © Grendelkhan