rock pigeon

The domestic or common pigeon was derived by selective breeding from the wild rock pigeon of Eurasia. It is one of the oldest domesticated animals. Escapes of domestics from confinement for thousands of years have provided stocks that developed into feral populations. Feral pigeons now have characteristics of both wild and domestic ancestry and frequently live essentially as though they are wholly wild.

The earliest known record of pigeons is in the fifth Egyptian dynasty, about 3000 B.C., according to Charles Darwin. In the time of the Romans, as we hear from Pliny, immense prices were given for pigeons; “nay, they are come to this pass, that they can reckon up their pedigree and race. “Pigeons were much valued by Akber Khan in India, about the year 1600; never less than 90,000 pigeons were taken with the court. “the monarchs of Iran and Turan sent him some very rare birds”; and continues the courtly historian, “His Majesty by crossing the breeds, which method was never practised before, has improved them astonishingly.” In most Islamic countries, pigeons were protected on religious grounds; in other lands, however, pigeons were traded commercially.

They have been called the feathered rat and like rats they just arrived in New Zealand along with the early settlers as there is no record of their introduction.

Rock pigeons in towns, where they have substituted urban structures for the ancestral rocky cliffs, are continously being supplemented by lost dovecot or racing pigeons and as a consequence have a more variable plumage than rural birds which are more like the original rock pigeons.

rock pigeon
Sub Species:

Other common names:  — 

rock dove, feral pigeon

Description:  — 

Introduced bird

33 cm., 400 g., in the wild form, mainly blue grey with sides and neck glossy green and purple, but highly variable, bill grey, feet pink.

Where to find:  — 

Widespread and common.

Illustration description: — 


Gould, John, Birds of Great Britain, 1862-73.

Knip, Mme, Les pigeons, 1808.

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Darwin, Charles, Origin of the Species, 1859.

Page date & version: — 


Tuesday, 3 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.