Feral Pigeons are pigeons that were derived from Domestic Pigeons that returned to the wild. Domestic Pigeons were initially bred from Rock Pigeons. The Pigeons that are often seen in urban areas and considered a nuisance, are Feral Pigeons. For the interest of this post, I will refer to them as Rock Pigeons.
The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon; (Columba livia) is a member of the bird family Columbidae (doves and pigeons). In common usage, this bird is often simply referred to as the “pigeon.” The species includes the Domestic Pigeon, including the Fancy Pigeon. Escaped domestic pigeons have raised the populations of feral pigeons around the world.
Wild Rock Doves are pale gray with two black bars on each wing, while domestic and feral pigeons are very variable in color and pattern. There are few visible differences between males and females. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents care for the young for a time. Habitats include various open and semi-open environments. Cliffs and rock ledges are used for roosting and breeding in the wild. Originally found wild in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, pigeons have become established in cities around the world. The species is abundant, with an estimated population of 17 to 28 million feral and wild birds in Europe. [Wikipedia]
A common sight in cities around the world, Rock Pigeons crowd streets and public squares, living on discarded food and offerings of birdseed. In addition to the typical blue-gray bird with two dark wing-bars, you’ll often see flocks with plain, spotted, pale, or rusty-red birds in them. Introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1600s, city pigeons nest on buildings and window ledges. In the countryside, they also nest on barns and grain towers, under bridges, and on natural cliffs. [All About Birds]
Rock Pigeon Facts [All About Birds]
- Pigeons can find their way home, even if released from a distant location blindfolded. They can navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic fields, and perhaps also by using sound and smell. They can also use cues based on the position of the sun.
- Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that pigeons were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago. The birds have such a long history with humans that it’s impossible to tell where the species’ original range was.
- Rock Pigeons carried messages for the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I and II, saving lives and providing vital strategic information.
- One domestic homing pigeon, a “retired” U.S. Army Signal Corps bird named Levi lived to be 31 years old. Feral Rock Pigeons have shorter life expectancies, averaging only 2.4 years. However, a Kansas bird was 6 years, 2 weeks old when it was recaptured and re-released.