At a Glance
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.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Pigeon-like Birds, Pigeons and Doves
Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Running
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Not migratory. If displaced from nesting area, has good homing ability; trained homing pigeons can return to home loft from long distances away.
13 1/2" (34 cm). The ancestral type has pale gray body, darker head, white rump, two black bars on wings. In flight, shows contrasty white underwings. Feral flocks include a wide variety of other color forms, some of which might suggest the wild native Band-tailed Pigeon.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Gray, Green, Pink, Purple, White
Songs and Calls
Soft guttural cooing.
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.
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2, sometimes 1. Incubation is by both parents, 16-19 days.
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.
Forages mostly by walking on the ground. Sometimes forages in trees or shrubs to take berries there, climbing about awkwardly. Often feeds in flocks.
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.
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.
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.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Rock Pigeon. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Rock Pigeon
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.