Greetings! This site is dedicated site to the study of pigeons and doves. It is hoped that this site will eventually include all species of columbiformes for North America. Currently, however, this site is limited to a few species, links to other similar sites and links to general sites for the pleasure of wild bird fanciers.

Table of Contents

(a) The Columbidae Family: An Introduction

(b) Passenger Pigeon: An Extinct Species

(c) Mourning Dove: Common North American Resident

(d) Other Links Relative to Study of Pigeons and Doves

(e) Sources Consulted

(f) Birding Resources on the Web


Pigeons and doves are the species included in this family. Birds of this family are generally plump, with short necks. They are known for their guttural cooing. Their diets consist mainly of seeds, nuts and insects. They are considered non-passerine species. The majority of passerines are birds that resemble sparrows in shape and size while the non-passerines are of varying shapes and sizes. Non-passerines are not known for their "song" like the passerines and they are known to inhabit a wider variety of locales. The passerine birds most often live and nest in trees and shrubs only. Non-passerines nests can be found on rocky cliffs by the sea, on the forest groundfloor, etc.

The Rock Dove or Domestic Pigeon is the largest in the Columbidae family. They originated in the Old World before they were introduced to North America. It is an easy adaptor to city life and is extremely common throughout the continent. Closely related to pigeons are doves. In fact, they are actually the same. This is interesting, considering that most people find pigeons to be dirty or annoying and doves are viewed to be gentle and peaceful.

If one were to distinguish between pigeons and doves, the former have broader, rounder tails and the latter have more pointed tails. Pigeons are also slightly larger in overall size.

There are several species of pigeons and doves common to North America:

Inca Dove

Mourning Dove

White-Winged Dove

Common Ground Dove

White-Tipped Dove

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

White-Crowned Pigeon

Red-Billed Pigeon

But first, let's pay homage to one of the greats....


(Ectopistes migratorius)

This bird was once known to be one of the most common birds in North America, prior to its extinction. The species fell victim to over-hunting and relentless slaughter. It was a primary food source for many (the chicken of 19th century America). In fact, "pigeon pie" was considered to be a great delicacy. These beautiful birds travelled in large flocks, where millions were often seen darkening the sky; some flocks were so large they induced an eclipse! One observer reported seeing one particular flock pass overhead continuously for 14 hours!

Passenger PigeonIf you'd like to find out more about the Passenger Pigeon, visit the Canadian Natural Resources' SchoolNet site

It has been estimated that the original population was between 3,000,000,000 and 5,000,000,000. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. She was 29 years of age.


(Zenaida Macroura)

Mourning Dove The Mourning Dove is likely to be the most common dove of the 20th century in North America. Despite it being an official game bird in some U.S. states, it still manages to reproduce quite well. This is due in part to conservation programs.

Description: This bird is about 30 cm long and is buff or beige in colour. The tail is long and pointed with white markings. It has black spots on its wings.

Sound: Some people mistaken its call for that of an owl. Its voice is low and mournful, (which explains its name)--"Coo ah...Coo-Coo-Coo". In addition, this bird can be identified by the whistling sound that its wings produce while in flight.

Habitat: It is a highly adaptable bird--it has been able to make its nest in almost any location. It can be found in open woodland, fields, scrub and urban areas. It is one of the few birds that has been able to adapt to deforestation during this century. However, its preferred nesting site is in coniferous regions.

Breeding: The Mourning Dove breeds at least once a year, which also explains why it is so common. Their breeding range extends across the U.S. and Canada, except for the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions.

For more info about the Mourning Dove: visit the Wildlife Neighbors site

Additional Web Sites For Dove and Pigeon Lovers:

Many of these sites have beautiful pictures.

The call of the Mourning Dove:

American Dove Association:

Spectacular Pigeon and Dove Photos:

USGS Dove Identification Tips:

Sources Consulted

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region (New York: Knopf, 1995).

Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Birds, 4th Ed.(Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1980).

Date created: January 11, 1998
Last updated: October 25, 2004
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