Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)


Also known as the Rock Dove or Domestic Pigeon, the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) is a fairly common sight in urban areas around the world. Some places – such as Trafalgar Square in London or Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester – are famous for their large pigeon populations. The Rock Pigeon has a restricted natural range in western and southern Europe, southwest Asia and North Africa. However, it has been successfully introduced in virtually every other country in the world and it is quite common to see Rock Pigeons resting on window ledges in cities across the globe.

The Rock Pigeon is a fairly large pigeon measuring 29-36 cm in length with a wingspan of 50-67 cm. Their coloration is quite varied but most wild birds are grey with a white rump and rounded tail. The tail usually has a dark tip and the wings are pale grey with two black bars. The Rock Pigeon has fairly broad wings and is a competent flier. They may have green and lilac patches on the sides of their necks. The male and female are similar in appearance but the males are larger and have more iridescent necks. The eyes and eyelids are usually orange though some have white-grey eyes. The eyes are usually surrounded by a dull white eye ring and the feet can be red or pink in color. Immature Rock Pigeons are duller in color and have less lustre.

Rock Pigeons tend to nest on ledges or in a cave – depending on their immediate environment. The nest is made of grass, heather or seaweed and is a fairly flimsy structure. A female will use the same nest repeatedly, building on top of old nests each time she wants to roost. She generally lays two white eggs in it. Both parents incubate the eggs for 18 days afterwhich they hatch to reveal pale yellow chicks with flesh-coloured bills that have a dark band. The parents feed the hatchlings on ‘crop milk’ for about a month until the fledging period has ended. Rock Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been used both as a source of food and as racing and homing pigeons. Despite their ability to find their way home over long distances, they are generally quite sedate and do not leave their local areas. Because of their association with humans, feral Rock Pigeons often display a wide variety of plumages.