The Rock Pigeon, Columba livia, is a member of the bird family Columbidae. It has a restricted natural resident range in western and southern Europe, North Africa, and into southwest Asia. The domesticated Rock Pigeon, known as the feral or domestic pigeon, has been widely introduced elsewhere, and is common all over the world. The species was first introduced to North America in 1606 at Port Royal, Acadia (now Nova Scotia).
The Rock Pigeon is 11.5 to 14 inches long with a 24.5 to 26.75 inch wingspan. The white lower back of the pure Rock Pigeon is its best identification character, but the two black bars on its pale gray wings are also unique. The tail is margined with white. The head and neck of the mature bird are a darker blue-gray than the back and wings. There is also a green and lilac patch on the side of the neck. The eyes are generally orange, but some may have white-gray eyes.
The Rock Pigeon usually nests on a ledge in or near a cave. The structure consists of grass, heather or seaweed. Two white eggs are normally laid and both parents incubate for about 18 days. The fledging period is 30 days. A Rock Pigeon’s life span is anywhere from 3″“5 years in the wild to 15 years in captivity.
Rock Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years. Trained domestic pigeons are able to return to the home loft if released at a location they have never been before and that may be up to 625 miles away. Homing pigeons have been developed through selective breeding to carry messages and members of this variety of pigeon are still being used today in pigeon racing.
Many people consider pigeons to be pests but they have made contributions of considerable importance to humanity, especially in times of war. In war the homing ability of pigeons has been put to use by making them messengers. So-called war pigeons have carried many vital messages and some have been decorated with medals for their service.