Rock Dove

Columba livia

The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon is one of the world’s most widespread birds and has been valued and cherished by humans for at least five millennia. Domesticated and trained for sport and transporting messages, these birds originated in the wilds of the Old World, where they still live today.

Rock Dove

Rock Dove

Immature Rock Dove

Immature Rock Dove

Rock Dove standing in a meadow

Rock Dove standing in a meadow

Rock Dove in-flight and about to land

Rock Dove in-flight and about to land

Appearance & Identification

What do Rock Doves look like?

The Rock Dove is a very familiar species with a variable appearance. The wild-type bird is gray overall, with a darker head and throat. Iridescent green and violet plumage are visible on the sides of the neck in good light, and bright red legs and eyes contrast with their smokey plumage.

They have two dark bars across each wing, and the ends of their primary and secondary feathers are dark. Their lower back is whitish when seen in flight, and their dark tail ends in a black tip.

Females are a little smaller but otherwise similar to males. They usually have less color on their necks and are generally slightly duller. Juveniles are similar to adults but have duller plumage, eyes, and legs.

Domesticated and feral pigeons in captivity and urban areas are the same species, yet they can have completely different plumage patterns. Many look very similar to wild birds, but they can also be darker in color, pure white, reddish brown, or many other color combinations.

Rock Dove walking in natural habitat

Rock Dove walking in natural habitat

How big are Rock Doves


Most adult Rock Doves and Feral Pigeons measure 11½ to 14 inches or 29 to 36 centimeters long. Males grow a little larger than females, but they overlap in size.


These robust birds average roughly 12 ounces (355 grams) but range from 8 to 13 ounces or 230 to 370 grams.


Their long, well-shaped wings measure over two feet, usually between 25 and 27.5 inches (63-70cm).

Rock dove standing on top of a wall

Rock dove standing on top of a wall

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a Rock Dove make?

Rock Doves produce typical pigeon like coo-ing calls. Displaying males make a rhythmic four-noted call while strutting their stuff. They also make a three-noted nest call and a grunting alarm call when faced with a threat.

Rock Doves resting together in rocky habitat

Rock Doves resting together in rocky habitat


What do Rock Doves eat?

Rock Doves do eat some insects, although they are mostly vegetarian. Seeds are the most important component of their diet, but they also eat fruits.

What do Rock Dove chicks eat?

Baby Rock Doves start life on a nutritious diet of crop milk. They are weaned onto seeds after a few days and switch to their adult diet in their second week.

Rock dove feeding on grass

Rock dove feeding on grass

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Rock Dove?

Rock Doves inhabit areas with steep rocky habitats for nesting and roosting and low or sparsely vegetated surroundings for foraging. Their usual nesting grounds include mountain and sea cliffs, and they forage in scrub, grassland, and agricultural areas. Their preference for cliffs and low vegetation explains why they have adapted so well to city environments and farming areas.

What is the range of a Rock Dove?

Rock Doves naturally occur in North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Today, their feral descendants can be seen in towns and cities all over the world.

Where do Rock Doves live?

Rock Doves usually forage on the ground but sleep and nest on cliffs. They are powerful in flight and can travel long distances each day between their feeding and roosting areas. These birds live everywhere from wild sea cliffs to urban metropolises and backyard lofts.

How rare are Rock Doves?

Rock Doves are among the most successful bird species on the planet when you consider their huge global range and ability to thrive in our towns and cities. Feral pigeons live alongside us all over the world, so they benefit from our success too.

Rock Dove standing by the edge of the water

Rock Dove standing by the edge of the water

Where can you see Rock Doves in the US?

Rock Doves occur in every state of the United States, including Hawaii. Look for them in cities, towns, and around farming areas where they roost and nest in barns, bridges, and other cliff-like structures.

Where can you see Rock Doves in Canada?

Rock Doves are most common in the south and west of Canada, where they live in towns, cities, and farmland.

Where can you see Rock Doves in the UK?

Rock Doves live in villages, towns, and cities throughout the United Kingdom. Wild birds still live and breed in coastal areas around Northern Ireland and the west and north of Scotland.

Rock Dove foraging in grassland

Rock Dove foraging in grassland

Lifespan & Predation

How long do Rock Doves live?

Wild and feral Rock Doves have a maximum lifespan of about seven years. However, domestic birds can survive much longer and may live for over fifteen years. The oldest known specimens reach their mid-twenties or even early thirties.

What are the predators of Rock Doves?

Rock Dove adults, chicks, and eggs have many potential predators wherever they live. Many medium to large birds of prey, like Peregrine Falcons and Golden Eagles, will hunt them. They are also vulnerable to many mammals, ranging from domestic cats and humans to raccoons and foxes.

Are Rock Doves protected?

Rock Doves are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the United Kingdom, where they are a native species. They are not protected in the United States, although control methods are regulated, and they are protected against animal cruelty.

Are Rock Doves endangered?

Rock Doves are a ‘Least Concern’ species on the IUCN Red List. However, wild populations could be threatened by interbreeding with feral birds.

Pair of Rock Doves standing together on the top of a wall

Pair of Rock Doves standing together on the top of a wall

Nesting & Breeding

Where do Rock Doves nest?

Rock Doves nest on flat surfaces with overhead cover. Wild birds use cliff ledges, but feral birds use rooftops, window sills, and barns. In typical pigeon fashion, they build a sparse and flimsy nest of twigs, grass, and feathers that becomes covered in droppings and greatly enlarged over time.

When do Rock Doves nest?

Rock Doves nest at any time of the year. They reach sexual maturity within their first year and may produce more than five broods each year in areas with good nesting habitats and a rich food supply.

What do Rock Dove eggs look like?

Rock Doves lay one to three plain white eggs, each measuring about 39 millimeters long and 29 millimeters across.

Do Rock Doves mate for life?

Rock Doves form close pair bonds and usually mate for life. The pair may use the same nest for many years.

<p><strong>Rock dove at nest with two eggs</strong></p>

Rock dove at nest with two eggs

<p><strong>Rock Dove hatchlings in their nest</strong></p>

Rock Dove hatchlings in their nest


Are Rock Doves friendly?

Wild Rock Doves are completely wild and skittish. However, feral birds can be very tame and even feed from the hand in many parks and city squares. Their domesticated ancestors can also make affectionate pets.

Where do Rock Doves sleep at night?

Rock Doves are diurnal birds that forage by day and sleep at night. Wild birds roost in nooks and crannies on cliffs and mountains, while feral birds prefer buildings, bridges, barns, and other man-made structures that provide shelter and protection from ground predators.

Rock Dove perching on the edge of a shed

Rock Dove perching on the edge of a shed


Do Rock Doves migrate?

Rock Pigeons do not migrate, and they may live and nest in the same areas for several years. However, the species has a natural homing ability, and trained racing pigeons have returned from distances of over a thousand miles!

Are Rock Doves native to the US?

Rock Doves are not native to the United States or elsewhere in North America. They were brought over from Europe as early as the 1600s.

Are Rock Doves native to the UK?

Rock Doves are a native species in the United Kingdom. Wild populations still live and breed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the common feral pigeons of towns and cities are descended from domesticated birds.

Rock Doves in-flight

Rock Doves in-flight


Is a Rock Dove the same as a pigeon?

Despite its traditional name, the Rock Dove is a true pigeon in the Columba genus. Rock Doves are the parent species of the common feral pigeon as well as the domesticated pigeon. Domestic birds have been selectively bred into a huge range of breeds, from all-white fan-tailed specimens to king pigeons that weigh up to two pounds.

Why are they called Rock Doves?

Rock Doves probably take their name from their habit of roosting and nesting in rocky cliffs and mountain slopes.

Are Rock Pigeons protected in the US?

Rock Pigeons are an introduced species in the United States of America. Like the House Sparrow and European Starling, these familiar urban birds are not federally protected.

Are Rock Pigeons protected in the UK?

Rock Doves are protected in the United Kingdom. Wild populations still live around the coast of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but even feral birds are protected by law. As such, it is an offense to harm them or disturb them when nesting.

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Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Columba livia

Other names:

Common Pigeon, Rock Pigeon



Conservation status:




29cm to 36cm


63cm to 70cm


230g to 370g

Learn more about the Rock Dove

Other birds in the Pigeons and doves family

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