Pigeons: 10 Superb Facts

Avatar of Shaimaa Olwan
Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Pigeons are birds that belong to the Columbidae family. They are spread in most regions around the world, concentrated in South America, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Pigeons are conical birds, ranging in length from 15-75 cm, weighing 30-2000 grams, and have soft skins, short legs, and small heads with beaks. They can fly excellently because their bodies contain 44% of the muscles that help them fly. Pigeons live alone or in groups that move as flocks and take homes from the nests that they build and depend on fruits and grains for their food.

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Closeup of gray pigeon bird on a city street.

Types of Pigeons

Pigeons are divided into large types called Pigeons and small ones called doves. Scientists have classified the types of pigeons into 5 sub-families, including 42 models and 308 species. The following are the most important major classifications of the bathroom.

Columbinae pigeon

It is also known as the old-world rock, as it belongs to this type of about 175 species and 30 genera. Most of the pigeons are Columba livia. Among the types of this bird that belong to this class are:

  1. Fantail pigeons: it is the one that has a fan-shaped tail. The number of feathers in its tail may reach 42 feathers.
  2. Jacobins pigeons: they have feathers around their neck, giving them the appearance of a clown.
  3. Homing pigeons: or carrier pigeons have long beaks.
  4. Pouter pigeons: they are birds with long muzzles, swollen chests, and standing erect, up to 16 inches high.
  5. Barb pigeons: its origin dates back to the 17th century in England, and it is characterized by the presence of a ring of skin around its eyes and beak, which later develops a ring resembling a flower.
  6. Owl pigeons: this type’s name gives the impression of a circular head, which is similar to an owl bird. The feathers around the neck of this species are sparse and sparse.
  7. Tumblers pigeons: this species has a stereo head, but it is short because the distance between the front and end of the head is small.
  8. Frillback pigeons: this one is distinguished by the shape of feathers on wings, as they take a twisted and wrinkled shape.
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Frillback pigeon in studio

Pheasant pigeons

One of the oldest types of pigeons, it has the size of a chicken. It is widespread in the region of Guinea. Among the most important types of pheasant pigeons:

  1. White-Winged pigeons: This bird is originally from desert areas, and it has orange eyes surrounded by shades of blue.
  2. Mourning pigeons: This species has small heads and tails and enjoys agility that helps them fly straight and fast, and their wings emit a sharp whistle when taking off.
  3. Ground pigeons: These doves belong to a large group called Metriopelia, and they are called ground because they feed on ground fodder. These ones have soft, reddish-brown feathers, and they are small, the size of a sparrow.
  4. Quail pigeons: They are of medium size and plump, their males have chestnut-coloured feathers, and the females have light-brown feathers, and both have a pale stripe underneath the eyes and red feet.
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Close up of mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) sitting on a wooden balcony ledge, San Francisco Bay Area, California

Fruit pigeons

These pigeons feed on fruits, their scientific name is Treroninae, and they are birds that have soft feathers in bright colours, such as red and yellow, but they are predominantly green, and their legs are short. Among the most important types are:

  1. The Heavyset Imperial.
  2. The Small Coloured.
  3. Alectroenas .
  4. The Dark blue: with a red crest.
  5. Treron: with scarlet-footed green.

Gorinae pigeon

It is found in New Guinea of three types joined together to form a species called the crested pigeon. These species are the largest, as their size is close to the size of a turkey. They are blue-grey and have a fan-like crest.

Tooth-billed pigeon

It belongs to the class of Didunculinae, which does not include anything else. It is a bird that feeds on fruits, and it was originally found in the Samoa region. This bird has a sharp beak similar to teeth and uses them to peck food while using its feet to stabilise it.

Homing pigeon

Trained domestic pigeons can return to the balcony of the house if they are released from a place they have not visited before, and the distance may be up to 1000 km. A special breed called the Homing pigeon, developed through optional selection to transmit messages, and a number of this group has been used so far for sports, such as pigeon racing and white pigeon release ceremonies at festivals and weddings in several parts of the world.

The homing pigeon is the undisputed master of this species in the world because of its instinct of love for its homeland and returns to it, no matter how far the vast distances it travels in delivering messages and the great services it performs in the history of wars and the transmission of its news to countries and villages.

The homing pigeon is still of interest to meteorologists to take advantage of its ability to provide expenses required by modern devices such as satellites, radars, aircraft and infrared detectors. One of this type, with its unique navigational device, can guide its unerring sense of what it is looking for while providing a lot of expenses allocated for the work of these devices.

The homing pigeon was used for the first time for military purposes in 24 BCE when the armies of the Roman commander Marcus Antonius besieged the forces of the commander, Brutus in the city of Modena, but Augustus III was in constant contact with Brutus to see his steadfastness from the siege through letters which were sent to him by this bird.


Here are some facts about pigeons:

  1. They can reproduce more than 21 times before it becomes harmful. They can move using earth magnets.
  2. They always lay at least two eggs containing a male and a female. They live for more than 30 years.
  3. They are known as sky mice. Pigeons are known as an invasive species, as it reduces small birds when their number increases.
  4. Tuberculosis and salmonellosis are diseases transmitted from pigeons to humans.
  5. An adult bird has over 10,000 feathers.


Man has worked on treating pigeons as pets by working on raising and domesticating them. This lovely bird has economic importance, as their meat is used for feeding. In order for it to breed successfully, it must be taken into account to choose large-sized ones and to produce gargles with a size ranging between 700-800 g. When breeding, it is necessary to distinguish between two main types:

  • Wild pigeons: Ones of small size and produce small young birds weighing no more than 500 gm when they reach the age of one month, and they spawn twice a year, in the spring and autumn seasons. The wild pigeon has a long and thin black beak, and its feathers are blue or grey, with a black line on its wings.
  • Domestic pigeons: It is the one that is used for breeding, including domestic species such as the Egyptian pigeon and the Maltese pigeon, and foreign species, such as the Balk, the Rihanian, the Qaraqatian, and others.

The following are the stages that the bird goes through during breeding seasons:  

  1. The male courts the female by blowing around her and strutting while walking.
  2. The female pigeon is attracted to the male who has the same characteristics as her parents, and when choosing the male, she puts her beak inside his beak to indicate her choice of him.
  3. The female moves in front of the male, moving her tail to the side, then touches each other’s bumps, so that fertilization occurs within half a second, and the male inserts his sperm into the female’s reproductive system.
  4. The male produces sperm during the breeding season through two testicles inside his body.
  5. The female has one ovary that contains all the egg cells through which the female reproduces throughout her life.
  6. Her reproductive system also contains an oviduct that contains fertilized eggs and swells as a result of their presence inside them.
  7. The egg feeds on nutrients and materials through the female genital tract, forms a shell, then travels to the female’s uterus and is stored inside it.
  8. The female usually lays two eggs, so she lays the first egg, then 24 hours pass, and then she lays the second egg.

Egg Development

The egg is transported through the female reproductive system, and it feeds until it acquires the nutrients necessary to form the shell. Then the egg is stored in her uterus until the time of its laying. The female often lays two eggs, and the delivery period is often 24 hours.

How to differentiate between a male and a female pigeon?

The pigeon does not have apparent physical features through which it can distinguish between the male and the female, and therefore its behaviour must be well monitored to be able to differentiate between the sexes, and among these behaviours are the following:

Time to sit in the nest

Both sexes participate in incubating the eggs. The male sits in the nest to protect it from the morning until mid-afternoon, while the female pigeons take care of the nest at a later time.

Physical movements

The movements of the male differ from the female, as the male bows his head while the female drags her tail feathers on the ground.


The male pigeon places himself above the female, which makes it easier to differentiate between them.


The size of the male pigeon is often larger than the size of the female.

Autopilot system

The pigeon needs two types of information to return home from a strange place. The first is called the “map sense” to know the geographical location. The second is the “compass sense” to know which direction to fly from its new place and to reach home. Both senses respond to a number of different signals in different situations.

The most popular concept of the ability of homing pigeons to come home is their ability to sense the geomagnetic field with small magnetospheres in their heads. Another theory says that pigeons use the compass sense through the position of the sun and the internal clock to deduce the direction.

Studies show that magnetic disturbance or clock changes should disrupt these senses, but pigeons can still come home. The possibility of the effects of manipulation of these senses in pigeons indicates that there is more than one cue on how navigation is based, and how to map sense is dependent on the available cues. Other possible signals may include:

  1. Sun as a compass
  2. Night navigation by the stars
  3. Map visual markers on the ground
  4. Navigation with an infrasound map
  5. Polarized light compass
  6. Olfactory cues
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Pigeon Flying


Pigeons feed mainly on grains such as yellow corn, wheat, beans, coriander, and barley, and it eats food twice, in the morning and evening, at a rate of 60-70 g per day. As for the dwellings in which pigeons can be raised, they may be wooden or metal cages that amateur pigeon breeders depend on.

  • Urban pigeons generally feed on whatever they can find to fill their diet. Therefore, it can be said that it eats everything of leftovers, insects, worms, seeds, fruits, bread, fish, meat, and sweets.
  • Wild pigeons can obtain healthier food than urban pigeons, as it feeds on berries, seeds, nuts, legumes, vegetables, pebbles, and fresh plants.

Pigeon Loft

As for dwellings in which pigeons can be raised, they may be wooden or metal cages that amateur pigeon breeders depend on. Houses with covered barns are a group of cages arranged in houses attached to courtyards covered with a net of 2 m in height and an area of ​​10 m2 to accommodate a hundred pairs of pigeons. The third option for pigeon houses is the tower system, which is built of mud or cement with a height of 2-3 meters, and it has several slots for ventilation.

What is the importance of pigeons to humans?

Pigeons were used in the past for many purposes, as their ability to fly was exploited to transmit messages quickly between people because it possesses a group of neurons that help them determine their direction and height depending on the magnetic fields of the Earth.

It was used to transmit messages, especially during periods of war, and from ships to land. It was also used to deliver messages to secret groups, as it formed a communication network between them without drawing attention. At the present time, pigeons are raised for the exploitation of their meat and entertainment purposes such as bird racing and exhibitions.

What are the best types of pigeons to eat?

Humans have been eating pigeon meat for centuries, but not everyone may like the taste of pigeon meat. Although pigeon meat is not a typical food in North America, it is considered a main dish in many regions of the world. For example, it is considered a delicacy in France, and the Chinese emperors enjoyed eating it for a long time. Pigeon meat can be preserved by salting or drying.

Baby Domestic pigeon

It is the pigeons raised inside farms that are less than four weeks old, this type of pigeon is suitable for those who have never tasted pigeons before. It is a good start for them because the meat of young pigeons is softer and more tender, as well as its delicious taste.

Wood pigeon

After trying and enjoying the meat of Baby Domestic pigeons, you can try the Wood pigeon with a strong flavour. Its taste is rich, deep and complex, but with more care during cooking, the meat of this type of pigeon can become tender and soft.

Wild pigeon

There are wild pigeons in the wild, and they are not raised on farms. It is also suitable for eating. The best wild pigeons to eat are the ones with large chests, and the subcutaneous fat is well distributed. It is better to buy mountain pigeons from a famous store to ensure the meat is fresh and of good quality.

If you enjoyed learning about this facinating animal why not check out more fantastic facts about other animals: Koalas, Land Animals, Sharks, Raccoons, Moon and Sun Bears, Rats, Sheep, Chickens, Cats, Pandas, Monkeys and Whales.

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