Rock Dove

Feral Pigeon

Key facts

Scientific name: Columba livia
Status: Resident but most birds are of feral origin

Breeding birds: 550,000 pairs

Conservation status: Green

Family: Pigeons & doves

Length: 31 – 35 cm
Wingspan: 62 – 70 cm
Weight: 230 – 370 g

What do rock doves look like?

Rock doves have a blue-grey mantle and wing-coverts, and a pale grey lower back. The flight feathers are darker and there are are two black wingbars on the greater coverts and secondaries. The rump and uppertail coverts are dark grey, and the tail is dark grey with a broad, black terminal band.

The underparts are pale grey with a green and purple gloss on the breast. The belly and undertail coverts are slate-grey, and the underside of the tail is black with paler bases on the outer rectrices. The axillaries and underwing coverts are white with pale grey on the leading edge.

The head is dark grey with green and purple iridescence on the throat and neck. The bill is dark grey with a white cere, the eyes are orange or red with a pale grey eye-ring, and the legs and feet are red or purple.

Female rock doves are similar but they are smaller than the males with duller plumage and less iridescence on the neck.

Juveniles are also duller, although young males may show some iridescence.

Feral pigeons come in a wider variety of colours from pale grey and white to dark grey and black, as well as cinnamon or rust-coloured. They may also have chequerboard markings.

How do rock doves breed?

Rock doves breed all year round, although mainly between April and July, Males select the nest site which is usually a ledge on a cliff, but also on rocky crevices, or in buildings using gutters, chimney pots, or in roof spaces.

The male brings nesting material to the female who builds the nest, which is a loose platform made of twigs, roots, leaves, and grass. It is not lined.

Rock doves lay two white egg which are incubated by both adults for 16-19 days. The chicks are fed with crop milk which is gradually replaced with seeds. They leave the nest at about 35-37 days after hatching, although earlier in the summer, but will return to the nest to roost for the first few days.

What do rock doves eat?

Rock doves eat mainly seeds as well as leaves, buds, and fruits, and very occasionally insects.

They will also eat kitchen scraps and other discarded waste left by humans.

Feral Pigeon

Where can I see rock doves ?

Although the wild rock dove is found only on the north and west coasts of Scotland, feral pigeons can be found all year round across the UK. They breed almost everywhere except upland areas and are most densely populated in towns and cities.

What do rock doves sound like?

Timo Tschentscher//xeno-canto

Did you know?

In both the World War I and World War II pigeons saved hundreds of thousands of lives by carrying messages across enemy lines.

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