Rock dove

Rock dove/Feral pigeon

©Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

Rock dove

Scientific name: Columba livia
The wild rock dove is the ancestor to what is probably our most familiar bird - the feral pigeon. Often found en masse in our towns and cities, the feral pigeon might be a nuisance to some people, but provides an easy encounter with wildlife for others.

Species information


Length: 31-34cm
Wingspan: 66cm
Weight: 300g
Average lifespan: 3 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The wild, 'pure' rock dove is the ancestor of all domesticated and feral pigeons. It is now only found around rocky sites and cliffs in remote areas. It was originally domesticated to provide food, but soon found its way into our towns and cities, farmland and woodlands. Feral pigeons now breed almost everywhere, except in upland areas. The high densities that occur in some urban areas have made it a pest.

How to identify

The Feral Pigeon is familiar to us as the grey-blue bird of our towns and cities. It comes in all shades, from pale grey to cinnamon brown, even resembling the wild rock dove perfectly. Feral pigeons are smaller than woodpigeons, but larger than collared doves. They look similar to stock doves, but the latter has a pinker breast, darker rump and black edges to its wings.


The wild rock dove is now only found on the coasts of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The domesticated version, the feral pigeon, is found everywhere.

Did you know?

As well as being pets, domesticated pigeons have been used as homing and carrier pigeons for years, often taking messages back and forth during wartime. Many pigeons even received medals for bravery and service during the World Wars.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with pest controllers to find the most wildlife-friendly solutions to some of our everyday problems. You can help by not feeding Feral Pigeons in areas where they may cause problems.