Common Pigeon Fact File
Common pigeons are a regular sight in cities where they have adapted well to life alongside humans. Modern skyscrapers provide spots like the cliff faces which these animals have previously nested on allowing them to breed there.
These animals are widespread having moved from their natural homes in Africa, Asia and Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Humans have a long history with common pigeons having domesticated them for use as homing pigeons and for racing.
They are among the few birds which can drink with their bill down and use this like a straw.
Learn more about these beautiful birds below.
The common pigeon is a plump bird featuring a small head and short black beak. This is pointed at the tip to help pick-up small objects from the ground.
Their feathers exhibit a wide variety of coloration. In most color forms they have a dark grey neck with a green-purple iridescence. In the most common form the main body section is light -grey with 2 black bars across the wing and a dark band at the tip of the tail.
Some of the variants include a black variant, all-white variant and red variant.
They have short pink legs with black toes. The eye is colored orange-red with a small round, black pupil.
Males tend to be slightly larger than females. An average common pigeon will reach 31-34cm (12.2-13.4in) long with a wingspan of 40-45cm (15.7-17.7in) across with a weight of 200-300g (7.1-10.6oz).
Common pigeons are omnivores. Their diet includes a wide range of seeds, buds, fruit, snail and insects.
These animals have become common in cities where they will forage for food scraps and bread. They may also receive supplemental feed from people.
Foraging takes place on the ground.
Their bill is treated like a straw to help suck up water.
Common pigeons were originally found in Europe, Asia and Africa. Here they range across much of these continents.
Significant introduced populations of these animals have established. This has expanded their range to now cover Australia, North America and New Zealand. It has also increased their range across Africa, Europe and Asia.
The population in Australia was first introduced in the 1870s. They were brought to North America in the 1600s.
Many of the world's introduced populations have been released from racing or homing pigeons.
Rocky cliffs are the natural home of the common pigeon.
Common pigeons are commonly found in cities where they forage for scraps. They will also live in farmland.
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Breeding can occur at any time of year with a peak in spring or summer. A pair will raise up to six broods each year though the amount produced decreases with age.
Males court the female by bowing and inflating their neck.
Their nest is built from twigs which the male brings the female one at a time. It is located on a cliff or in cities on the face of a building. Pairs reuse their nest year after year and it is built up with feces, shells and the bodies of dead hatchlings over years.
In to the nest females deposit 1-3 eggs. These are colored white and incubated 18 days. The hatchlings fledge within 25 to 32 days.
Both parents work together to raise the chicks. They are fed 'crop milk.' This is a high protein liquid produced in the crop of adults. This is gradually replaced by seeds as the chicks grow.
They will start flying at 30 days old. Chicks remain near the nest for another week before dispersing.
Foraging occurs either in a pair of a small flock. Males will often take the opportunity to court females while they are foraging together.
The common pigeon makes a oo-roo-coo sound with a slight rise in the middle. Males tend to be noisier than females.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the common pigeon include birds of prey. In cities they are a main food source for urban peregrine falcons.
Common pigeons have benefited from humans. They have expanded their range across the globe.
In parts of their range they are killed as they are seen as a pest.
Wild populations may be declining through in-breeding with domestic pigeons.
The common pigeon is also known as the feral pigeon, rock pigeon or rock dove.
Common pigeons have been trained as homing pigeons. These can find their way home across long distances. During wars they were used to transfer messages across the warzone.
Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Muhammad Mahdi Karim The making of this document was supported by Wikimedia CH. (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or FAL), via Wikimedia Commons
Lewis Hulbert, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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