A Pigeon by Any Other Name

We call them pigeons. Birders have called them rock doves. Apparently now, the powers that be in the bird world have declared them to be rock pigeons.

One of the most familiar birds worldwide, these chunky, multicolored birds have adapted so well that we can find them in cities and farm fields, in parks and on rocky cliffs. They are members of the Columbidae family, along with all other pigeons and doves.

Their natural diet includes seeds and fruits, but they’re excellent scavengers, loitering in places where people gather and tend to drop morsels that can be snatched. They are equally creative in using various spaces for their nests.
Pigeon skills in navigation and homing proved valuable during World Wars I and II, when they were used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps to carry messages.

Numbers Declining

Though pigeons seem ubiquitous, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) estimates that the population has declined by almost 50 percent since 1966. The survey is a long-term, large-scale cooperative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The program began in 1966, led by Chandler Robbins, a researcher at Patuxent and good friend of Rachel Carson, who penned the landmark book Silent Spring. Her book alerted the world to the effects of pesticides on bird populations, but was considered quite controversial when it was published. Robbins died in 2017, just short of his 99th birthday. He was a renowned ornithologist and often birded with Carson. You can read more about them at http://www.rachelcarson.org/mChanRobbins.aspx

The BBS continues to be an important tool in avian research and the formation of conservation programs.

The global population of pigeons is estimated at 120 million and though declining in North America, they are not currently a species of concern.

Watching pigeon behavior can be a fun past time. Recently while waiting at a bus stop in downtown Seattle, I watched a group of them ambling about. It’s fun to make your own narrative of what’s going on.

Forming a strategy
Gone to the dark side
Walking the line
Going their separate ways

Published by

Joan E. Miller

I live in the amazing Pacific Northwest. I'm a writer, photographer, birder, nature lover. I'm also a gardener, of food, flowers and shrubs.

5 thoughts on “A Pigeon by Any Other Name”

  1. All the news about the loss of birds. Tamara read out to me just yesterday that since the 1960s we have lost 40 million bids in the UK. I suspect the real number is higher.

    In the UK we have wood pigeons (white streak either side of their neck) and we see these in town on the grass area just in the front of the house, rock doves (no markings, but purple-y, blue-y, grey-y all over), stock doves (same as rock doves except iridescent green patch on back of neck and pink-tinged chest) – and of course the smaller, finer, collared dove and turtle dove – and feral pigeons – which look pretty much like the ones in your photos. It’s rare now to see collared doves (plenty in Israel when I was there last November), and rare to see turtle doves.
    When I was younger – in my twenties and thirties and lived in the countryside, I would see flocks of a hundred or two hundred pigeons in the fields – and clouds of lapwings as well. Not any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have several types of doves/pigeons in the US too. In my area, rock pigeons, collared doves, band-tailed pigeons and occasionally mourning doves. In the south there are smaller doves. Clouds of lapwings! That would be something to see!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And the Rock Doves, or pigeons have glorious colors in their feathers, often looking like an oil spill on water, wavy and multi- hued.   Annie O

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the pretend “narrative” you made for the sweetie group of pigeons, Joan: Clever and fun. 😊

    David and I do this all the time with birds and other animals that we see during our walks. It’s always jolly to imagine what might be going through their minds (well, personification aside, that is!).

    I particularly like the many wood pigeons that we have here in the UK. Their white collars of sorts and overall soft appearance is wonderfully lovely.


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