Companion and Urban Animals > Wild Animals > Wild Bird Index

The Under-Appreciated Pigeon
A dove by any other name. . .

Many people have disdain for pigeons. "Flying rats," some say. These people probably don't realize that pigeons are a parrot's closest avian relatives. If you like parrots, you should like pigeons.

Here are some traits that parrots and pigeons have in common:
1. They mate for life
2. They have powder down in their feathers
3. Both produce crop milk to feed their babies
4. Both have a fleshy cere covering their nostrils

Furthermore, there is no taxonomic or biological distinction between pigeons and doves. And everybody likes doves!

For the record, there are over 250 species of pigeons worldwide. Of these, only 3 species have been domesticated:
1. Rock dove
2. Ringneck dove
3. Diamond Dove

The Rock Dove was domesticated 2,000 - 3,000 years ago in Europe and has been the foundation of the 200 breeds of domestic pigeons that are available. These 200 breeds are broken down even further into an infinite number of color varieties.

Domestic breeds are broken down into 3 groups:
1. Homing or Carrier pigeons
2. Tumbling pigeons
3. Fancy or Exhibition pigeons

Pigeons Throughout History
"In 1150, the Sultan of Baghdad introduced a pigeon postal service that functioned until about 1258."

--Matthew M. Vriends, "Pigeons""Although the speed the pigeons fly varies, the birds usually average 50 mph."

--"The Tampa Tribune""Scientists always suspected that homing pigeons had an organ that was able to detect magnetic fields."

--"Boston Herald"Pigeons use an internal compass that allows the birds to orient themselves using the Earth's magnetic poles.

--"Boston Herald""During the siege of Paris in 1870-1871, pigeons were used, as well as in both World Wars."

--Matthew M. Vriends, "Pigeons""During World War II at least 32 pigeons received the 1943-inaugurated Dickin Medal for brave service."

--Matthew M. Vriends, "Pigeons""At the turn of the century, the U.S. Navy built pigeon stations at every base."

--"Boston Herald"