Street Pigeon

Here are three confusing facts about the ‘street pigeon’:

So, the street pigeon is also known as city doves, city pigeons, or feral pigeons.

Street (or feral) pigeons, domestic pigeons, and rock pigeons are all the same species (possibly considered different subspecies) and will all interbreed

These street pigeons descended from domestic pigeons (that were returned to the wild) which were originally bred from the rock dove.

‘City’ Pigeons sitting on top of a statue, downtown Boston

These are the pigeons I’d see when I was out in Boston, and then over in London as well.

City pigeons on bridge arch in Kensington Park, London UK

These pigeons are larger than mourning doves and robins, but smaller than crows. They are plump birds with short wings and small heads. Unlike the pointed tails of mourning doves, the tails of these pigeons are wide and rounded.

There is no one set color pattern for these birds, as they can range in color from blue-gray to black, to white (as shown in the picture I took of a group of them sitting on a bridge arch in Kensington Park in London a few years ago).

In terms of their ‘North American’ geography–they are ‘year-round’ residents to basically any and all major cities within the United States (though they are absent from most of Alaska, and the northern regions of Canada).

The ‘City’ or ‘Rock’ Pigeon migration map. Map (c) birds of the world

You can usually see them in areas where there are large crowds (so say parks, public squares, open shopping areas) where they will be walking around looking for discarded food or seeds.

They can be spotted within urban areas, farmlands, and even on rocky cliffs–either on their own, in pairs, or large flocks.

Pigeons and gulls around the Tower of London, London UK

I’ve personally only have seen them in larger urban areas (such as Boston and London), than in the smaller suburban areas (such as Stillwater, which has more mourning doves).

Their ‘natural’ diet is similar to the mourning dove: seeds and fruits. Since they’re also known to be in areas with high human traffic–they will also eat (or pick at) food that has been intentionally or unintentionally left behind.

Pigeons in Boston

So here three other little cool tidbits about these pigeons:

Both parents will take turns with incubating the eggs (males incubate from mid-morning to late afternoon, and then the female will take over until the following mid-morning). They will also both care for and feed the young (pigeon milk).

They served as messenger pigeons during both world wars

They’re great navigators–to where they can find their way home even when released from a good distance away (which is why they made such good messenger pigeons).