Domestic Pigeon

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Common Name: Domestic Pigeon
Scientific Name: Columba livia domestica

Size: 12 – 14 ½ inches (32-37 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; The pigeon’s original range was western and southern Europe, North Africa and into southwest Asia. Its habitat is natural cliffs, usually on coasts. In its domesticated form, the feral pigeon has been widely introduced elsewhere and is common, especially in cities, over much of the world. In Britain, Ireland, and much of its former range, the Rock Pigeon probably only occurs pure in the most remote areas. The pigeon has adapted to human activity and is now widespread throughout the world.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: unknown. Rock Doves have adapted to humans and are not imperiled.

Diet: Seeds and man-made food products.

Nesting: In the wild, the nest is usually on a ledge in a cave; it is a slight structure of grass, heather, or seaweed. Like most pigeons it lays two white eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents for about 18 days. The nestling has pale yellow down and a flesh colored bill with a dark band. It is tended and fed on "milk" like other doves. The fledging period is 30 days.

Cool Facts: A Rock Pigeon's life span is anywhere from 3-5 years in the wild to 15 years in captivity, though longer-lived specimens have been reported. Rock Doves come in five basic variations; Natural (shown above), Checkered, Brown, Dark and Pied. Many domestic birds have escaped or been released over the years, and have given rise to the feral pigeon. These show a variety of plumages, although some look very like the pure Rock Pigeons. The scarcity of the pure wild species is due to interbreeding with feral birds. The pigeon was introduced to North America in 1604 by explorers and settlers. Pigeons are one of the few birds that can swallow water without having to lift its head back, allowing the bird to drink much more water.

Rock Pigeons have been domesticated for several thousand years, giving rise to the domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica). As well as pets, domesticated pigeons are utilized as homing pigeons and carrier pigeons, and so-called war pigeons have served and played important roles during wartimes, with many pigeons having received bravery awards and medals for their services in saving hundreds of human lives: including, notably, the French pigeon Cher Ami who received the Croix de Guerre for his heroic actions during World War I, and the Irish Paddy and the American G.I. Joe, who both received the Dickin Medal, amongst 32 pigeons to receive this medallion, for their gallant and brave actions during World War II. There are numerous breeds of fancy pigeons of all sizes, colors and types.

Myths, Stories & Legend: The use of the olive branch as a symbol of peace dates at least to the first century BCE. The Roman poet Virgil (70-10 BCE) used it as such in his Aeneid:

"High on the stern Aeneas his stand,
And held a branch of olive in his hand,
While thus he spoke: "The Phrygians' arms you see,
Expelled from Troy, provoked in Italy
By Latian foes, with war unjustly made;
At first affianced, and at last betrayed.
This message bear: The Trojans and their chief
Bring holy peace, and beg the king's relief."


Defeated Roman armies displayed olive branches to indicate surrender.

In the Hebrew Torah, doves or young pigeons are acceptable burnt offerings for those who can't afford a more expensive animal.

In the Christian Bible (Genesis 8:6-12), Noah used a dove to determine if there was any dry land. When the flood waters receded, the dove came back with an olive leaf:

6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
7 And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
8 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
9 But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.
10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;
11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him anymore.

Dove is also a term of endearment in the ‘Song of Songs’ and elsewhere.


In the New Testament, Jesus's parents sacrifice doves on his behalf after his circumcision. Later the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism like a dove, and subsequently the dove became a common Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In Islam, doves and the pigeon clan in general are respected and favored because they are believed to have assisted the final prophet of Islam, Muhammad, in distracting his enemies outside the cave of Thaw'r in the great Hijra.

An olive branch held by a dove was used as a peace symbol in 18th century Britain and America. A £2 note of North Carolina (1771) depicted the dove and olive with a motto meaning: "Peace restored". Georgia's $40 note of 1778 portrayed the dove and olive and a hand holding a dagger, with a motto meaning "Either war or peace, prepared for both." The olive branch appeared as a peace symbol in other 18th century prints.

In January 1775, the frontispiece of the London Magazine published an engraving: "Peace descends on a cloud from the Temple of Commerce," in which the Goddess of Peace brings an olive branch to America and Britannia. A petition adopted by the American Continental Congress in July 1775 in the hope of avoiding a full-blown war with Great Britain was called the Olive Branch Petition.

Picasso's lithograph, La Colombe (The Dove), a traditional, realistic picture of a pigeon, was chosen as the emblem for the World Peace Congress in Paris in April 1949. The dove became a symbol for the peace movement and the ideals of the Communist Party. At the 1950 World Peace Congress in Sheffield, Picasso said that his father had taught him to paint doves, concluding, "I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war." At the 1952 World Peace Congress in Berlin, Picasso's Dove was depicted in a banner above the stage.


Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Legend

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