Rock Pigeon

Columbia livia

By Hugh Jennings

  • 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.

Photo by Philip Magallanes

Photo by Philip Magallanes

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

By Andy McCormick

  • Length           13"
  • Wingspan:     22"
  • Weight:         7 oz (200 g)
  • AOU Band code    ECDO

In the middle 1970s a local breeder in the Bahamas was burglarized and several Eurasian Collared-Doves were released. Soon thereafter he released the remaining 50 birds he had. “By the late 1980s, [sightings were] reported from several Florida counties, Georgia, and Arkansas. From that point, range expansion has been explosive and these doves have been first-reported from Alabama in 1991, Texas in 1995, S. Dakota in 1996, Iowa and Montana in 1997, Minnesota in 1998, and Oregon in 1999. Populations [are]established in all southeastern states, as well as California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas” (Romagosa, 2000) (See range map). Additional releases have been made during this time. Eurasian Collared-Doves are now being seen in Washington. Continued expansion into Canada is expected. It has been an amazingly fast bird species invasion.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is a large, pale buff-gray dove with a black collar and noticeably larger than a Mourning Dove. The wing has three color tones. The primaries are dark and appear blackish next to the gray secondaries and the wing coverts are brown. The tail is dark and black at the base when seen from below. Its call is a monotonous repeated kuk-koooo-kook with an emphasis on the middle note (Alderfer).

It is in the genus Streptopelia from the Greek streptos, a collar of twisted chain mail, and peleia, a dove or pigeon. Its species name decaocto is Greek for ten and eight. There is a Greek folktale about a servant girl that was paid only 18 pieces a year. She prayed to the gods to help her escape and they turned her into a dove, so she could fly off. The common name reflects the bird’s natural range and it’s black and while partial collar. Dove is from the Anglo-Saxon dufan, to dive, for its irregular flight pattern (Holloway).

Like most doves it builds a flimsy nest of loosely arranged sticks in a tree or shrub but also on human-made structures. There is little data on North American birds, but studies in Europe and India find that generally two eggs are deposited in the nest and incubation takes only two weeks. Both parents feed the young crop milk or “pigeon milk,” a substance rich in fat and protein produced in the crop from cells sloughed off the upper esophagus (Kaufman). Eurasian Collared-Doves do not migrate but will disperse a great distance from the nest. A pair can produce several broods per year and up to six in warmer climates.

“Continued conversion of natural habitats into suburban, urban, and agricultural areas, should allow for continued range expansion and population increase across North America and the Caribbean” (Romagosa). As an introduced species the Eurasian Collared-Dove is not protected from hunting and is becoming a more popular game bird in the Southeastern United States, a factor that may control its population growth.

Photo by Mick Thompson

Photo by Mick Thompson

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

By Andy McCormick

  • Length           12"
  • Wingspan:     18"
  • Weight:         4.2 oz (120 g)
  • AOU Band code    MODO