The names ‘pigeon’ and ‘dove’ are sometimes interchangeable.  Some animal experts as well as the common people use these two names for the same bird.  In this course material, we do not include ‘doves’ in this item or entry.

a flock of wild or feral pigeons

The group of birds called ‘pigeon’ is divided into two broad types: one is the “rock pigeon” and the other is the “feral pigeon”.  The rock pigeons are the present domesticated pigeons which people have been keeping for their meat or for sport for thousands of years, and the feral pigeons are the ones that are ‘escaped domesticated pigeons’ but still live in and around human settlements – villages, towns and cities, even in the most modern and sophisticated cities as well as in the most remote areas – in the highest mountainous areas, including Himalayas!  According to some authorities, however, the name ‘rock pigeon’ includes “feral pigeons”, too!

a domesticated pigeon

a kind of bird – small to medium-sized stout body with thick heavy feathers – different colours in different kinds – white, grey, blue-grey, red, (some solid colour and some speckled, all together 28 different colours), – short neck, small head, small delicate beak (bill), usually orange or red eyes, pointed wings, relatively long tail, red or pink legs with long toes and black claws; size: 8-16 inches in length, and weight: the smallest being only 30 grams and the largest being 2 Kg; feeds on (eats) mainly seeds, fruit, other plant matter, and the edibles found around human settlements; lives for 5 years (some individuals in captivity live for 15 years); many sub-species (kinds/breeds), believed to have originated from China, Asia, but now found all over the world, except the coldest parts

pet or racing pigeons in a coop

male ~~ cock

female ~~ hen

baby ~~ squab, squeaker

group ~~ flock, kit, flight, loft, dropping

voice ~~ coo; strut

home ~~ nest (for laying eggs and raising squabs); coop (man-made)

Special Features:

“pigeon post”, carrying a message

The ‘Pacific imperial pigeon’ is the national bird of Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand.

The ‘yellow-footed green pigeon’ is the state bird of Maharastra, India.

The rock pigeon is the world’s oldest domesticated bird.  Studies have shown that the pigeon was domesticated ten thousand years ago!

The pigeons bred for their meat alone are called “utility pigeons”.

They have been bred for their meat, for sport, using in pigeon races, and for carrying small printed messages – from the Roman emperor Julius Caesar to the World War II.

In the present world, some war and crime reporters in the war front send their reports or still photo films by the ‘homing pigeons’!

Martha, the last ‘passenger pigeon’

For their bravery and service in carrying messages during World War II, some pigeons were given bravery medals!!

Pigeons are also used in some scientific laboratory experiments in making some kinds of medicine!

Pigeons are known have very affectionate relations with their mates!

In the last century, the ‘passenger pigeon’, once probably the most numerous of all birds on the planet (thousands of birds in a single flock), was driven to extinction (= wiped out from the face of the earth – not even one bird is found alive now).

Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on the 1st of September, 1914.

Return to “dove“.     Return to “homing pigeon“.     Return to “squab“.      
Return to “stool pigeon” in People & professions.
About the Author:BC Kumar

BC Kumar, an English Language Teacher, taught in numerous countries including Ethiopia, Oman and India, shares his knowledge and passion for the English Language. Disclaimer: This is a free educational website and all content has been compiled by the author. All copyrights to images and videos belong to their respective owners.

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