Order Columbiformes

Pigeons and doves make up the order Columbiformes, which includes species such as:

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
  • White-crowned Pigeon
  • Band-tailed Pigeon
  • African Collared-Dove
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • White-winged Dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • Inca Dove
  • Common Ground-Dove
  • White-tipped Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove

Rock Pigeons were introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1600s, and have successfully inhabited most parts of the world today.

However ubiquitous adult feral pigeons seem, baby pigeons, or squabs, are usually hidden away until they are ready to fledge at about a month old. They are altricial when hatched at 18 days of incubation, meaning they are blind, covered in downy fuzz, and are completely dependent upon parental care. Some breeds of pigeons, such as the African Owl, need foster parents to raise their young as they have been bred to possess tiny, almost nonexistent beaks.  This makes it practically impossible for them to feed their own babies.  Pigeon pairs are typically monogamous and hens lay a clutch size of 2 eggs. Nests are poorly constructed and consist of twigs, feathers, and other materials such as dried grasses and hay, which they proudly and excitedly parade around with in their beaks after finding before handing it off to their mates. Both parents take turns sitting on the nest, caring for and feeding the squabs right up until they are ready to fledge.  Even then, the fledglings chase their parents around begging for food, sometimes pleading to complete strangers!

One of the first feral pigeons I rehabilitated, Flightless.

Pigeons and doves are classified as granivores, in which the bulk of their diet consists of various seeds and grains. They are one of the few birds that are able to drink by suction, while most other birds, such as songbirds, tilt their heads back to allow gravity to assist. Just like humans, some pigeons can be prone to atherosclerosis, so diet certainly impacts the health and longevity of these guys, which can be 20-30 years with great care. Along with deer, horses, and rats, pigeons naturally do not have a gallbladder to store bile. They also have an incredible navigation system still not fully understood by scientists, and can find their way home from hundreds of miles away within just a few short days while reaching speeds of up to 60 mph when racing! Who would have known that an everyday ordinary bird could possess such extraordinary history and character?

Additional Resources:

  1. Pigeons and Doves, Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds

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