Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
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A rock pigeon photographed in Lincoln, Nebraska
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Rock Pigeon

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".


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.


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.


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

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