Photo: Claude Nadeau/Vireo

Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

Few birds have been associated with humans so closely as the Rock Pigeon, better known as the common city pigeon. It has been domesticated and taken around the world, raised for food, trained for homing, racing, and carrying messages, and used in research. Originally native from Europe to North Africa and India, it now lives in a wild or semi-wild condition in cities all over the world, including most of North America. In places it has reverted to wild habits, nesting on cliffs far from cities.
Conservation status Sometimes a nuisance in cities, but not proven to have much negative impact on native bird species. A favorite prey of Peregrine Falcon, supporting Peregrines that stay around cities.
Family Pigeons and Doves
Habitat Sustains itself in the wild around cities, farms, cliffs, bridges. In North America most common around cities, also in suburban areas and farms, occasionally in wild places far from human dwellings. In native range, nested on cliffs along coast and in inland mountains and gorges.
Few birds have been associated with humans so closely as the Rock Pigeon, better known as the common city pigeon. It has been domesticated and taken around the world, raised for food, trained for homing, racing, and carrying messages, and used in research. Originally native from Europe to North Africa and India, it now lives in a wild or semi-wild condition in cities all over the world, including most of North America. In places it has reverted to wild habits, nesting on cliffs far from cities.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult, variant plumage
  • light adult
  • adult, variant plumage
  • adult, variant plumage
  • adults
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by walking on the ground. Sometimes forages in trees or shrubs to take berries there, climbing about awkwardly. Often feeds in flocks.


Eggs

2, sometimes 1. Incubation is by both parents, 16-19 days. Young: Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 25-32 days, or later in cold weather. A pair may raise up to 5 or more broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 25-32 days, or later in cold weather. A pair may raise up to 5 or more broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds. Away from cities, feeds on waste grain, seeds of many grasses and other plants, sometimes berries or acorns; may eat a few earthworms or insects. In cities, may live largely on bread crumbs, popcorn, or other junk food provided by humans.


Nesting

May mate for life. In courtship, male spreads tail, puffs up chest, and struts about, often strutting in circles around female, repeatedly bowing and cooing. Nest: Natural sites are on sheltered cliff ledges. In cities and around human dwellings, uses artificial replacements such as window ledges of tall buildings, barn lofts, rain gutters, many others. Nest (built by female, with material supplied by male) is platform of twigs, grass. Pair may use same site repeatedly, adding to nest each time.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Not migratory. If displaced from nesting area, has good homing ability; trained homing pigeons can return to home loft from long distances away.

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Migration

Not migratory. If displaced from nesting area, has good homing ability; trained homing pigeons can return to home loft from long distances away.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft guttural cooing.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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