Rock Dove in the window of an old barn.
Used with permission. © Leanne Guenther

Rock Dove

(Genus, species:  columba livia)


The rock dove is a very pretty name -- and the bird is actually pretty too when you step back and look at it.

However, the rock dove is really just the fancy name for the plain old pigeon we see everywhere!  My husband affectionately calls it a "flying rat" -- it isn't, but it is a bit of a pest sometimes.

I love to watch them walk around -- their heads bob when they walk.

Pigeons live all over the world.

General:  Pigeons live throughout the world including Europe, North Africa, Asia and throughout all of North America.

Rock Dove Description
Used with permission. © Leanne Guenther

Description - male:  The feathers can be a wide variety of colors.  Typically they have a dark bill, grey head, back and belly with mottled dark and light grey wings.  They usually have a very pretty green and purple iridescence on their necks.  The birds are about 11 inches long.

Description - female:  same as male though they tend to be a bit less iridescent.

Description - young:  Nestlings are born with fluffy yellow feathers (they're a bit ugly).  About four weeks after hatching, they have the same coloring as the parents.

Rock Dove Habitat
Used with permission. © Leanne Guenther

Feeding:  Rock doves eat mainly seeds, although in cities their diet has been expanded to include popcorn, peanuts and bits of bread.  They flock while roosting, sunning, and feeding.


Habitat:  The wild rock doves nest in crevices in rocky seaside cliffs or in open shrub vegetation.  Rock doves have adapted to "human encroachment" on their natural habitat very well.  They nest on skyscrapers, bridges, old farm buildings (and even under our deck one year!).

Rock Dove Nesting
Used with permission. © Leanne Guenther

Nesting:  Rock doves mate for life -- they can meet their partner at any time during the year.  Both the male and female help with the care and raising of the young.

The male builds the nest, and the eggs are laid shortly after the nest is finished. 

In the nesting territory, both sexes are aggressive, pecking intruders (even people) on the head.


Migration:  Rock doves do not migrate.

Owls are Rock Dove enemies.

Predators:  Common predators of North American rock doves are opossums, raccoons, great horned owls, screech-owls, golden eagles, American kestrels, and peregrine falcons.

Other neat facts:  Some people breed pigeons to eat -- the meat of young pigeon is called squab.  Some people used pigeons as messengers -- these "homing pigeons" would be carried by a person who would tie a message to their leg.  Then the pigeon would be released and would fly "home" with their message.  They were so useful carrying messages during some wars that a few were even given medals.


Worksheets and Other Activities:


[Birds of Alberta]  [Canada Geese]  [Great Horned Owl]  [Merlin]  [Northern Goshawk]  [Pine Grosbeak]  [Puffin]  [Rock Dove]  [Ruffed Grouse]  [Sharp-tailed Grouse]  [Steller's Jay]  [Wild Turkey]  [Willow Ptarmigan]