Columba livia (rock pigeon)

Columba livia is the pigeon. There are 3 types of pigeon:

  • rock pigeons (natural)
  • domestic pigeons (artificial) 
  • feral pigeons (outlaws)

The feral pigeons, found in our towns and cities, stemmed almost entirely from the old-time dovecote pigeons. These dovecote pigeons were semi-domesticated birds that originally derived from wild rock pigeons (Columba livia).

The feral pigeons are often ignored by ornithologists. Perhaps because:

  • they are not native wild birds
  • the result of man’s interference with nature 

Feral pigeons live in an artificial environment, like the townspeople who feed them, but they are not pariahs.

Feral pigeons have lived in our towns for so long now that it is hard to say they are not native. Their original ancestor, the rock pigeon, is a native wild bird - this makes the feral pigeon a fully-fledged species as well, which does not deserve to be ignored or hated.

Species detail

It is often thought that feral pigeons descend from domestic pigeons that strayed, became lost or were abandoned by their owners. However, 'fancy' pigeons have little chance of survival outside their lofts. They are easy prey for predators and they aren't able to find their own food. Even if they joined a flock of feral pigeons, they would not be tough enough to survive, and homing pigeons seldom live very long or breed successfully in feral state.

  • Pigeon

    Find out about the scientific classification of Columba livia and how it is referred to within the scientific community. Read a more in-depth taxonomic history regarding this species.

  • Close up photo of a feral pigeon
    Distribution and ecology

    Discover the areas that feral pigeons are known from and the types of habitat they are typically found in. Learn about the nesting patterns of this species.

  • Interior of dovecote
    Origin and evolution

    Learn about the domestication of pigeons and the cultures that made use of them.

  • Feral pigeon eating from a person's hand
    Behaviour and feeding

    Feral pigeons live independently of but usually close to humans and spend much of their time idling, preening or sun-bathing. Find out about the behaviour and feeding patterns of this species.

  • Blue chequered feral pigeon

    Learn about the form and structure of the feral pigeon.

  • A flock of different coloured feral pigeons

    Get reference material for Columba livia.


Close up of a feral pigeon

The feral pigeon lives mainly in urban area.

Rock pigeons showing their natural blue colours

Blue is the natural colour of the rock pigeon.

Dovecote of Minster Lovell Hall

Dovecote of Minster Lovell Hall.

Interior of dovecote

Interior of dovecote.

Blue chequered feral pigeon

Blue chequer is probably the most common colour in feral pigeons.

Different coloured feral pigeons

Feral pigeons appear in many different colours.

A feral pigeon eating out of a person's hand

Feral pigeons are not only seen as pariahs, they are a joy for many people as well.


From rock pigeon and dovecote pigeon, the feral pigeon became a urban species which belongs in our towns now.

A feral pigeon in mid-flight

A feral pigeon in mid-flight.