Illustration: Rock pigeon

Illustration by H. Douglas Pratt


Map: Rock pigeon range


This highly variable city pigeon is familiar to all urban dwellers. Multicolored birds were developed over centuries of near domestication. Polytypic (12 ssp.; nominate in North America.). Length 12.5" (32 cm).

Identification A medium-size compact pigeon with long wings and a short tail. Birds most closely resembling their wild ancestors are gray with head and neck darker than back, and a prominent white rump. Black tips on the greater coverts and secondaries form bold black bars on inner wing, and there is a broad black terminal band on the tail. Adult male: metallic green and purple iridescence on the neck and breast; iris orange to red; orbital skin blue-gray; bill grayish black; and feet dark red. Adult female: like male, but iridescence on neck and breast more restricted and subdued. Juvenile: generally browner, lacks iridescence; orbital skin and feet gray.

Voice Call: a soft coo-cuk-cuk-cuk-cooo.

Status and Distribution The rock pigeon was introduced from Europe by early settlers; it is now widespread and common throughout the United States and southern Canada, particularly in urban settings. Gregarious and forming large flocks, it feeds on handouts and grains during the day in city parks and open fields; roosts on buildings at night. Flocks or otherwise displaced pigeons can be found far from civilization. Breeding: nest is loosely constructed of twigs and leaves, primarily on structures such as window ledges, bridges, and in barns; has 2 white eggs.

Population Primarily associated with human development and dependent on people for food and shelter.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

Bird Features

  • Photo: A red bird with black wings on a branch

    Backyard Birding Central

    Want to learn more about our feathered friends of the sky? Visit our Backyard Birding site for facts, photos, videos, and more.

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

See More Bird Features »

Bird News

See More Animal News »

Birds A-Z


  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

National Geographic Magazine

From the Magazine

  1. Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  2. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.