Rock Dove Photo Guide

I invite you to take a brief tour through images of this familiar bird officially named rock dove from 2011 onwards.It is known as rock pigeon or simply the pigeon as well. While you view this article, I request you to make mental notes of features you find striking in this bird.DSC_0019

Photo Courtesy of Ravi Khemka @ Andheri West, Mumbai, Jan 2010

You can see that the true wild form of the pigeon is a grey bird with two dark wing bars. It has metallic green and purple around its neck and upper breast. Note the orange-yellow eyes and coral red legs. There is a white patch at the base of the beak. Females look similar but a bit smaller in size.

City pigeon

Photo Courtesy of gailhampshire @ Margate Beach, Brisbane, Queensland, Oct 2014

Here is a street pigeon. Look how it differs from its “true” wild cousin by having patterned wings.This difference is nothing compared to the next picture.


Photo Courtesy of awayukin @ Kobe, Japan, Jul 2010

This is a fantail, a popular breed of fancy pigeon. See how wildly different this breed is, when compared to its wild ancestor! Note the rings on its legs, indicating that it has an owner.

Rock dove, is said to be the earliest bird domesticated by man. It is mentioned in ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian records about 5000 years ago. Research suggests that domestication began even earlier, about 10,000 years ago. Man has bred about 800-1100 visually different varieties from the wild form. These are the domestic pigeons. They are kept by an owner.However many domestic birds have escaped captivity or have been released by the owners. This has given rise to feral pigeons or street pigeons. They all belong to the same species of rock dove but exhibit a very wide range of colors and shapes.

Feral pigeons

Photo Courtesy of Appaiah @ Gateway of India, Mumbai, Aug 2007

Their natural habitats of the past were rocky hills and cliffs in open country. They avoided heavy forest.Now they have become comfortable to co-exist with man by adapting to feed on bazars etc on food spills and people feeding them or gleaning grain from harvested fields. They nest on old buildings, under bridges,railway stations, anywhere they can find a ledge,niche or hole.Feral pigeon on nest

Photo Courtesy of Corey Leopold @ San Antonio,Texas, May 2008

As you can see, the nest is just a scanty platform of sticks, hay, feathers etc.They breed throughout the year but usually avoid the rainy months from July to September.The typical clutch is two eggs ,white in color. Both parents share the duties of nest building, incubation and feeding the young.

“Young male. Similar to the adult, but rather browner, and with the wing-bars less distinct and the iridescent colours of the neck not so well developed.The feathers of the back, wing-coverts, and more rarely of the head and breast, are fringed with pale dull brown.Colours of soft parts. The iris is at first a dull glaucous-brown, then a pale reddish-brown, from which it gradually changes to the orange-red of the adult. The legs are a less brilliant red in tint and often paler.” writes E.C.Stuart Baker in his book, Indian Pigeons and Doves.Young pigeon

Photo Courtesy of PARSHOTAM LAL TANDON @ Bangalore, Jan 2013

After reading the excerpt above from Mr.Bakers book, you might agree that this bird, just beginning to fly off, is in fact, just beginning its life too. This bird in all probability is not a “pure” wild form and hence variations from its original grey color is highly possible. But I notice that the iridescent colors of the neck is not so well developed in this bird and it has an overall browner appearance. That, is the reason I think, this is a young bird.

1.Rock dove page @ Wikipedia
2.The Book of Indian Birds By Salim Ali,Published by The Bombay Natural History Society,1941
3.Indian pigeons and doves By E.C. Stuart Baker,1913
4. Domestic pigeon page @ Wikipedia
5.Feral pigeon page @ Wikipedia
6.Fancy pigeon page @ Wikipedia

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