Rock dove

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Rock dove
Wild rock doves in Shetland, Scotland.
Scientific classification
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C. livia
Binomial name
Columba livia
Gmelin, 1789
Distribution. Red: wild range. Pink: domesticated range.
Rock dove eggs

The rock dove (Columba livia, also occasionally known as rock pigeon, common pigeon or just the Pigeon) is a member of the bird family Columbidae. Rock doves are now rare in the wild, only found on remote islands and rocky cliffs in the far west and south of Europe east to central Asia. Domesticated birds which have become feral, most often called feral pigeons or simply pigeons, can however be found in cities, towns and villages all over the world, picking up dropped food in streets and parks, and begging food from people. Domesticated pigeons are also kept as poultry for food, and as homing pigeons, for the sport of pigeon racing.

The wild rock dove is very distinct, with a light grey back and body with two black stripes on its wings, and a dark blue-grey head with shiny feathers on the side of the neck which reflect green and purple light. Domesticated birds are much more variable, with a wide range of colours, including white, pink, and brown not seen in wild birds.

Relationship to humans[change | change source]

Rock doves have been domesticated for several thousand years, giving rise to the domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica).[1] They have been domesticated as long as 5,000 years ago.[2] There are many breeds of pigeons, with many sizes and colours.[3] Domesticated pigeons are used as homing pigeons as well as food and pets. They were in the past also used as carrier pigeons.

Feral Pigeons[change | change source]

File:Feralpigeon.jpg
A feral in Nanjing, China

Many domestic birds have got lost, escaped or been released over the years and have been made feral pigeons. These show a variety of colour and size, but many have the same pattern as does the rock dove. Feral pigeons are found in cities and towns all over the world.[4] The rareness of the wild species is somewhat due to breeding with feral birds.

Life[change | change source]

  1. Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. ISBN 0-85390-013-2.
  2. Johnston, Richard F. (1992-07-01). "Evolution in the Rock Dove: Skeletal Morphology". The Auk. 109 (3): 530–542. doi:10.1093/auk/109.3.530 (inactive 31 January 2024). ISSN 0004-8038.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  3. McClary, Douglas (1999). Pigeons for Everyone. Great Britain: Winckley Press. ISBN 0-907769-28-4.
  4. "Why study pigeons? To understand why there are so many colors of feral pigeons". Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Archived from the original on June 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-20.