Dovecote at Nymans Gardens, West Sussex, England

The domestic pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica) was derived from the Rock Pigeon. The Rock pigeon is the world's oldest domesticated bird. Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets mention the domestication of pigeons more than 5,000 years ago, as do Egyptian hieroglyphics.[1] Research suggests that domestication of pigeons was as early as ten thousand years ago.[1] People who keep domestic pigeons are generally called pigeon fanciers.[2] Domestic pigeons can often be distinguished from feral pigeons because they usually have a metal or plastic band around one (sometimes both) legs, which shows by a number on it, that they are registered to an owner.[3]

Pigeons have made contributions of considerable importance to humanity, especially in times of war.[2] In war the homing ability of pigeons has been put to use by making them messengers. So-called war pigeons have carried many vital messages and some have been decorated for their services. Medals such as the Croix de guerre, awarded to Cher Ami, and the Dickin Medal awarded to the pigeons G.I. Joe and Paddy, amongst 32 others, have been awarded to pigeons for their gallant and brave services in saving human lives. Despite this, many people consider pigeons to be pests. Domestic pigeons are sometimes called "thoroughbreds of the air," while feral pigeons are sometimes called "rats with wings."[4]


Domestic pigeons reproduce in a similar way to the wild Rock Pigeon. Generally humans will select breeding partners. Crop milk produced by parent birds may occasionally be replaced with artificial substitutes. Baby pigeons are called squeakers.[5] See Also:-Gallery

Homing pigeonsEdit

Main article: Homing pigeon
File:Homing pigeon.jpg

Trained domestic pigeons are able to return to the home loft if released at a location that they have never visited before and that may be up to 1000 km away. A special breed, called homing pigeons has been developed through selective breeding to carry messages and members of this variety of pigeon are still being used in the sport of pigeon racing and the white release dove ceremony at weddings and funerals.

Pigeons' extraordinary navigation abilities have been attributed to the theory that they are able to sense the Earth's magnetic field with tiny magnetic tissues in their head (magnetoception). This is all the more surprising as they are not a migratory species, which is a fact used by some ornithologists to dispute the "compass pigeon" theory.

Other purposes of pigeon breedingEdit

For foodEdit

Template:Mainarticle Pigeons are also bred for meat, generally called squab and harvested from young birds. Pigeons grow to a very large size in the nest before they are fledged and able to fly, and in this stage of their development (when they are called squabs) they are prized as food. For commercial meat production a breed of large white pigeon, named "King pigeon," has been developed by selective breeding. Breeds of Pigeons developed for their meat are collectively known as Utility Pigeons.

Exhibition breedsEdit

Main article: Fancy pigeon

Pigeon fanciers developed many exotic forms of pigeon. These are generally classed as Fancy pigeons. The Fanciers compete against each other at exhibitions or shows and the different forms or breeds are judged to a standard to decide who has the best bird. Among those breeds are the English Carriers, a variety of pigeon with wattles and a unique, almost vertical, stance (pictures). There are many ornamental breeds of pigeons, including the "Duchess" breed, which has as a prominent characteristic feet that are completely covered by a sort of fan of feathers. The Fantails are also very ornamental with their fan-shaped tail feathers.


Main article: Flying/Sporting Pigeons

Pigeons are also kept by enthusiasts for the enjoyment of Flying/Sporting competitions. Breeds such as Tipplers are flown in endurance contests by their owners.


Domestic pigeons are also commonly used in laboratory experiments in biology, medicine and cognitive science.

Cognitive scienceEdit

They have been trained to distinguish between cubist and impressionist paintings, for instance. In another project, pigeons were shown to be more effective than humans in spotting shipwreck victims at sea. Research in pigeons is widespread, encompassing shape and texture perception, exemplar and prototype memory, category-based and associative concepts, and many more unlisted here (see Pigeon intelligence and discrimination abilities of pigeons).

Illegal predator killing by enthusiastsEdit

In the US, some pigeon keepers illegally trap and kill hawks and falcons to protect their pet pigeons[6]. In American pigeon-related organizations, enthusiasts openly shared their experiences of killing hawks and falcons, although this is frowned upon by the majority of fanciers. None of the major clubs condone this practice. It is estimated that almost 1000 birds of prey have been killed in Oregon and Washington, and that 1 to 2 thousand are killed in southern California annually. In June 2007, three Oregon men were indicted with misdemeanour violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for killing birds of prey. Seven Californians and a Texan have also been charged in the case.

In the West Midlands region of the United Kingdom pigeon fanciers have been blamed for a trap campaign to kill peregrine falcons. Eight illegal spring-loaded traps were found close to peregrine nests and at least one of the protected birds died. The steel traps are thought to have been set as part of a “concerted campaign” to kill as many of the birds as possible in the West Midlands.[7]

Pigeon LungEdit

Pigeon breeders sometimes suffer from an ailment known as Pigeon Lung. A form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, Pigeon Lung is caused by the inhalation of the avian proteins found in feathers and dung. It can sometimes be combated by wearing a filtered mask.[8]

Feral pigeonsEdit

Main article: Feral pigeon

Many domestic birds have escaped or been released over the years, and have given rise to the feral pigeon. These show a variety of plumages, although some look very like the pure Rock Pigeons. The scarcity of the pure wild species is partly due to interbreeding with feral birds.

The cause of a pigeon to go feral is usually when they are lost in a race. They already know how to take care of themselves, thus they survive on their own. They will sometimes return home or continue staying wild. However, the reason why they choose to stay feral is basically unknown.

Retrieving a feral pigeon Edit

Finding a feral pigeon that is willing to come with you is very difficult. You must lure it with food and then take care of well. that way, it is not likely to leave again. However, some pigeons may end up leaving their home over and over again and may never come back.

See alsoEdit



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