Other Birds - Sounds Wild
Rock Doves


Download Episode: Rock Doves (MP3 file 3,711 kB)


Rock doves

At a Juneau restaurant with outdoor seating, a trio of pigeons is underfoot, gleaning crumbs and scraps. Relatively fearless, they dodge efforts to shoo them off, scampering under tables and benches and flying only when necessary - and then only a short distance, returning in minutes. The restaurant will close in a few weeks at the end of the tourist season, and these birds will find another place to feed, almost certainly continuing their close association with people and human-provided food.

Pigeons - officially known as rock doves - have long been closely associated with people. Rock doves are believed to be the first domesticated birds and are referenced in Egyptian and Mesopotamian writings more than 5,000 years old. At first they were raised for food, and later for their remarkable homing trait and ability to carry messages. Birds that escaped and became feral maintained their close association with people. As people spread across the globe, rock doves traveled with them. They were introduced to North America in the early 1600s by French immigrants to Nova Scotia.

Rock doves aren't migratory and tend to stay close to their favorite feeding sites. Wild rock doves nest on cliffs; in the urban landscape, bridges, rafters and the ledges of buildings serve as nesting and roosting sites. They mate for life and both parents incubate the eggs, guard the nest and care for the young. A female lays two eggs in a clutch and can raise the two babies, known as squabs, in just two months, feeding them on pigeon milk, a rich, high fat food they regurgitate to feed their nestlings. Under ideal conditions with abundant food they can produce six clutches a year, which explains their abundance.