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What Is a Rock Pigeon?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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A Rock pigeon is a member of a species of bird found in many parts of the world. There is some variation in appearance, although most of the birds are a blue gray color. Rock pigeons are often observed in urban environments and there are thought to be over 20 million specimens in Europe alone. Breeding can occur throughout the year, but is most common during spring and summer. The species is kept by humans as pets and is also valued for its homing abilities.

A rock pigeon is one of the most instantly recognizable birds in the world because they seem to be everywhere. The species has a short bill, usually with a small area of white at its base. Typically, the birds grow to about 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length. The coloring of a rock pigeon can vary, but most are mainly gray, with areas of blue, black and white. This variation in color is due to escaped domesticated birds.

The distribution of rock pigeons is wide reaching, with species found in many urban areas. Not all pigeons live in cities, however; many live in open countryside. The species is natively found in North Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia, but has spread to other parts of the world including North America. It is not known how many specimens of rock pigeon there are at the moment, but it is almost certainly over 100 million.

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In most cases, a rock pigeon will breed during the spring and summer months, but some reproduction takes place throughout the year. In the past, a rock pigeon would breed on the face of a cliff because this provides protection from many predators. Today, the rock face is often replaced with large buildings such as apartment blocks. In urban environments, many eggs and nests are threatened by cats.

Rock pigeons have a number of predators. Birds of prey, such as sparrow hawks, are known to eat pigeons and can catch them relatively easily. Animals including raccoons may also prey on the birds. In some countries, the species is considered a pest and hunted aggressively, although this is less common today than it was in the past.

Homing pigeons are domesticated rock pigeons which have been trained to carry messages. The species has been kept by humans throughout history, and the bird’s ability to find “home” has proved especially useful during wartime. Pigeons are also kept as pets, and there are a number of domesticated breeds.

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