Pigeons and doves are one of the most cosmopolitan of bird families. All easily recognisable, some are even brightly coloured and beautiful - even the pesky, city-dwelling pigeon has a certain head-bobbing charm. Pigeons and doves thrive in pretty much every habitat on Earth, only the Arctic Circle and Antarctica have none.
One of the most famous, or infamous, extinctions of recent times was a species of pigeon. The passenger pigeon was perhaps the most numerous bird that ever lived, however, billions were wiped out in under 50 years. Explore some of the remaining 300 or so species from the turtle dove and Old World pigeon groups below.
Scientific name: Columbidae
The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Pigeons and doves constitute the bird clade Columbidae, that includes some 310 species. They are stout-bodied birds with short necks, and have short, slender bills with fleshy ceres. Doves feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones.
In general, the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, "dove" tends to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically, the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms. The species most commonly referred to as "pigeon" is the Feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities.
Doves and pigeons build relatively flimsy nests from sticks and other debris, which may be placed in trees, on ledges, or on the ground, depending on species. They lay one or two eggs, and both parents care for the young, which leave the nest after seven to 28 days. Unlike most birds, both sexes of doves and pigeons produce "crop milk" to feed to their young, secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Young doves and pigeons are called "squabs".
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