Family Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)

Least Concern

Rock Dove (Columba livia)


French: Pigeon biset German: Felsentaube Spanish: Paloma bravía
Other common names: Rock Pigeon, Feral Pigeon (feral form)

Columba (domestica) β livia

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

southern Europe


Ancestor of feral pigeon. Closely related to C. rupestris of C Asia and C. leuconota of Himalayas. Considerable confusion as to the degree to which several populations are “natural”, and how much they have been affected by mixing with feral birds; proposed races atlantis, canariensis and nigricans appear to refer to feral populations. Birds of Egyptian Sudan previously separated as race butleri; race lividior (Fiko, SC Mali) included within gymnocycla#R. Nine subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. l. livia J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – British Is, W Mediterranean and N Africa E to S Urals, W Kazakhstan, N Caucasus and Iraq.
  • C. l. gymnocycla G. R. Gray, 1856 – coastal Senegambia and Guinea patchily to C Mauritania, S Mali and Ghana.
  • C. l. targia Geyr von Schweppenburg, 1916 – C Sahara to S Sudan.
  • C. l. dakhlae R. Meinertzhagen, 1928 – C Egypt (Dakhla and Kharga Oases).
  • C. l. schimperi Bonaparte, 1854 – Nile Valley S to Khartoum, and Red Sea hills from E Egypt to N Eritrea.
  • C. l. palaestinae Zedlitz, 1912 – Palestine, Sinai and Arabia S to Aden and Muscat.
  • C. l. gaddi Zarudny & Loudon, 1906 – Azerbaijan, Iran, W & N Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ustyurt Plateau in Transcaspia and Uzbekistan.
  • C. l. neglecta A. O. Hume, 1873 – Transcaspia and Turkestan S to Iran, Baluchistan, Sind and NW Punjab, and E to Tien Shan, SW Tibet and E Himalayas.
  • C. l. intermedia Strickland, 1844 – India and Sri Lanka.
  • Introduced and feral populations almost worldwide.

    Descriptive notes

    31–34 cm; 180–360 g. General colour bluish grey, darkest on head and rump, palest on wing-coverts; two black bars conspicuous on folded wing; black terminal band... read more


    Several vocalizations all consist of low-pitched, somewhat tremulous, ventriloquial cooing notes.... read more


    Natural habitat consists usually of rock faces where birds nest. Studies in Scotland found species... read more

    Food and feeding

    Studies in Europe reveal that birds feed typically on grains, such as Triticum, Hordeum and Avena; legumes like... read more


    Known to breed all year round in Britain and Ireland with peak breeding in Apr and minimum in Jul; season varies from region to region, in... read more


    Although domestic form has been used in studies of migration and homing (see Family Text),... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Evaluation of conservation status and security of “natural” populations hampered by confusion concerning degree of mixing with feral... read more

    Recommended citation

    Baptista, L.F., Trail, P.W., Horblit, H.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Rock Dove (Columba livia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 30 March 2020).