Scientific Name: Columba livia domestica
Habitat: Pigeons are found all around the world in any area where they have access to the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. Most commonly, pigeons are found in urban areas including parks, cities, farms, and other man-made structures.
Diet: Pigeons eat grains, seeds, berries, and small insects and invertebrates. However, they are also known for eating almost anything that they have access to.
Size: 0.8 to 1 feet tall / 1 to 1.5 feet long / 2 foot wingspan
Weight: 0.5 to 0.8 pounds
Lifespan: 4 years in the wild / 15 to 30 years in human care
I.U.C.N. Conservation Status:
What does this mean?
Least Concern – a species determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.) to be pervasive, abundant, and thriving.
Piper (Male) – Born May 27, 2017 (*Homing Pigeon*)
Skeletor (Female) – Estimated Birthdate April 2022 to May 2023 (*King Pigeon*)
Pigeons are one of the oldest domesticated birds in the world. In fact, discovered artifacts from some of the oldest societies ever recorded (including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt) feature pigeons on them! Over the course of history, pigeons have been used for rituals, companionship, food, sports, competitions, and messengers. However, over the years, many domesticated pigeons have escaped or been released into the wild where they mate with other pigeons or dove populations. This has created a massive population of feral pigeons in urban areas. Today, it is estimated that there are upwards of 400 million pigeons across the whole world!
Did You Know?!
- Due to their depiction in Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian art, is estimated that pigeons were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago, but some studies believe it could even be up to 10,000 years ago!
- Pigeons are actually very intelligent birds! Not only are they capable of finding their home from more than 1,000 miles away, but they are also able to recognize images of themselves AND tell different people apart. In fact, a pigeon can remember up to 1,800 different images.
- According to a few different studies, it is believed that trained pigeons are capable of distinguishing benign and malignant cancers. According to one study, a pigeon by itself was 85% accurate while a flock of pigeons was up to 99% accurate!
- Homing pigeons were – throughout history – very popular due to their amazing mail carrying ability! Why? Not only are they excellent navigators that can find their way home from more than 1,000 miles away, but they are capable of flying up to 90 miles per hour, up to 6,000 feet in the air, and are able to carry 10% of their body weight.
- In the past, trained pigeons have been used to locate people lost at sea and notify the proper authorities.
- Pigeons have quite the military history as well because throughout the 20th century they were used to deliver messages quickly and discreetly across battlefields.
- Pigeons are one of three types of birds who produce a milk-like substance to nurture their newborns. A few days before their eggs hatch, both male and female pigeons begin to create a white substance of proteins and fats in a sac connected to their esophagus. This liquid is used to feed their hatchlings for the first few weeks of their life.
*One of the most famous veteran pigeons was named Cher Ami (French for “dear friend”). In World War 1 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive of October 1918, some United States troops under Major Charles White Whittlesey got accidentally pinned down between fire from both sides of the conflict (the United States, France, and Siam versus Germany). After a few failed attempts to get a message to their allies using various pigeons, Cher Ami was their last hope. With a note of assistance strapped to his leg, he took off from the trapped soldiers’ location to deliver the message back to the Allies. Despite being shot down initially by some German troops, Cher Ami got back up and made it to his destination. Due to this, the Allies learned the location of the “Lost Battalion” so that they could halt their bombardment and allow the troops to get out of the line of fire. Due to Cher Ami’s success, 194 troops were saved. His wounds included a bullet through the breast, the loss of one eye, and the loss of one leg. However, the Army medics worked hard to save the heroic bird’s life, and he managed to survive his injuries. Once he was healthy enough to travel, he was put on a boat to the United States and sent off by General John J. Pershing!*