Rock Pigeon

Bird of the Month: Rock Pigeon

By Hugh Jennings

Scientific Name: Columbia livia

Length 12-14 in

AOU Band code ROPI

The Rock Pigeon (ROPI), formerly called Rock Dove, is better known as the common city pigeon is 12-14" long. It is believed this was the first bird to be domesticated, about 4500 B.C..

It was raised for meat, later the ancient Romans made use of its message carrying ability. In recent wartimes, it was again used as a message carrier. It was the Eurasian species that was domesticated and introduced around the world.

The Rock Pigeon was native to rock cliffs of southern Europe and North Africa. Consequently, city skyscrapers provide cliff nesting habitat for the birds and human-discarded food scraps ensure survival of the young. It apparently was introduced first in Nova Scotia by the French in 1606 and a few years later to Virginia and Massachusetts.

These feral pigeons have evolved to eight basic plumage types. Birds of the ancestral wild type are gray, darkest on the head and neck, with two black bars on the secondary feathers, a white rump, dark tail tip and some iridescence on the side of the neck.

Its call is a soft coo-cuk-cuk-cuk-coooo. It eats almost anything; field grains, seeds, grasses, berries, bread crumbs, table garbage. It drinks from fountains, park ponds. Some will alight on water to drink as they can easily fly up from the water.

The nest is a flimsy platform of sticks, twigs and grasses on building ledges, rafters or beams inside barns, and in the natural environment on cliffs and caves. White eggs, usually two, can be laid in every month , but usually from Mar.-June. Incubation is 17-19 days and the young first fly 35-37 days after hatching.