• Species: Rock pigeon (also known as rock dove).

• Scientific name: Columba livia.

• Nicknames: Pigeon.

• Claim to fame: Rock pigeons, which most people simply call pigeons, are well-known urban birds. Human opinions and tolerance levels of pigeons vary.

Some people enjoy watching and feeding pigeons and listening to their cooing. Others view pigeons as nuisances whose droppings are unsightly and can sometimes pose health hazards.

Rock dove on rocks
December, 1997

Many people don’t realize the rock pigeons they see on buildings and city parking lots are descendants of the famous “homing pigeons” used by humans for communication purposes from ancient times up through World War II.

Rock pigeons are not native to North America; they were intentionally introduced to the continent by European settlers in the 1600s.

• Species status: Rock pigeons are thriving in cities in Missouri and throughout North America.

• First discovered: The first scientific description of the rock pigeon (which until recently was known as the rock dove) was by Johann Friedrich Gemelin in 1789, but it was known to humans long before this.

Some theorize pigeons were the first birds to be domesticated by humans (around 4500 B.C.) Although it was probably first domesticated for food, humans noticed and began to utilize the bird’s amazing homing characteristics for communication purposes.

For centuries, sending a message by pigeon was the fastest form of communication in the Old World.

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