The Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) is the most conspicuous urban bird in North America: a plump, slate-gray member of the dove family it has a white rump, double black wing-bars and a dark tail band. The feral (wild) Rock Pigeon has been domesticated and bred for food (squab) in Asia and Europe since ancient times. It was introduced in America in the 17th century and is famous for its strength as a flier and its homing ability. Pigeon clubs have timed races as long as 400 miles, and the birds use the sun's position, the earth's magnetic fields and topography to navigate. The Rock Pigeon enhances its bland appearance by cooing, strutting and bowing, fanning its tail, and occasionally snapping its bill and hissing. As the bird walks, its head rocks forward and back.See all Rock Pigeon photos
The predominant form of the Rock Pigeon is gray-blue with white rump, black wing-bars and tail band, white cere and purple-green iridescence on the neck. Other forms are black, rusty red, white and mottled. (L. 12.5 in.)
The Rock Pigeon is a year-round resident in most of North America from coastal Alaska and just below Hudson's Bay, Canada south through Mexico and Central America to Panama.
Mourning Dove   (species account)   (all photos)
The Mourning Dove is a slender, tan-colored bird with a long, tapered, white-tipped tail and black-spotted wings.
Band-Tailed Pigeon   (all photos)
The Band-tailed Pigeon in the western U.S. is more elongated and has a white collar, yellow bill and light (not dark) band on its tail.
White-crowned Pigeon   (all photos)
The White-crowned Pigeon in Florida is dark overall with a bright white crown.
The Rock Pigeon was originally a seaside cliff-dweller, but now nests primarily on building ledges, highways and bridges. It is also found with livestock.
The Rock Pigeon eats grains (especially corn), small seeds, fruit and human leftovers. Pigeons occasionally fall prey to Peregrine Falcons that have been re-established themselves in urban environments. Pigeons sometimes elude the falcons by maneuvering fast and low to the ground.