ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Rock Pigeon is usually grey with an iridescent neck showing green, blue and purple colors, and two black bands on the wings. The eyes are orange. The tail has a black edge. The bill is grey with a white operculum at the base. The legs and feet are pink. Both sexes are similar. Juveniles have a duller plumage. There are several variants in the plumage of their domestic descendants, from rusty to white. Pigeons bob their heads while walking on the ground. They are approximately 12 inches (30 cm) long.
NAME: The rock pigeon is also called ‘rock dove’ or simply ‘pigeon’. The name ‘Pigeon’ is from old French and means a ‘young bird’. It comes from a Latin word that means ‘to peep’. The name ‘Rock’ stems from the fact that in the wild this bird nests on cliffs. As for the Latin species name ‘Columba’, it means a ‘dove’ or ‘pigeon’, and the species name ‘livia’ means ‘blueish’, in reference to the plumage color.
HABITAT: In the wild, rock pigeons are found on the edges of cliffs, where they nest and roost. In urban environments, they nest and roost on building edges and cornices.
DIET: It feeds on the ground from food scraps in cities, and grain.
NESTING: The rock pigeon coos to attract a mate. The nest is a loose structure of sticks and two white eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs. Chicks are fed ‘crop milk’ for the first few days.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to western Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa, pigeons have been introduced around the world and their feral descendants have well adapted to urban environments. On Hawaii, many pigeons are white or beige or a mix of those colors, in addition to the usual colors of that species.
Distribution map:
ON PEI: The rock pigeon is very common on Prince Edward Island and is a year round resident.
CONSERVATION: Pigeons – wild, domesticated and their feral descendants are widespread around the world and are a species of ‘least concern’. Actually it’s the other way around – steps have been taken to control their populations in some areas. When they perch and nest on buildings, their guano eventually damages them. People are discouraged from feeding them in parks or squares, and spikes have been installed on buildings to prevent them from roosting there. This is also why the Peregrine Falcon has been introduced (successfully) in some cities.
NOTES: The rock pigeon is part of the dove family as the Latin name implies.
Domestic pigeons are descendants of that species.
Rock pigeons can harbour many parasites and may transmit them to humans. They can get infected with the West Nile virus but don’t spread it. However they can spread avian influenza. Pigeon droppings can be a source of various diseases too.
Because they can find their way home, pigeons have been used as ‘homing’ birds for all kinds of communications including during wars.
Pigeons have been domesticated for several thousand years.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Band-tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove

Rock Pigeons and Zebra Doves being fed on Magic Island, Oahu – © Denise Motard
Rock pigeons and Zebra doves, Oahu