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?Pigeons and Doves
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) in flight
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) in flight
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae

see article text

Feral Rock Pigeon beside Weiming Lake, Peking University


Indian pigeons Bangalore

For the experimental model animal see Rock Pigeon

Pigeons and doves constitute the family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerine birds. In general parlance the terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, there is a tendency for "dove" to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the term "dove" and "pigeon." This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones. The young doves and pigeons are called "squabs."

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. The species commonly referred to just as the "pigeon" is the feral Rock Pigeon, common in many cities.

Their usually flimsy nests are made of sticks, and the two white eggs are incubated by both sexes. Doves feed on seeds, fruit and plants. Unlike most other birds (but see flamingo), the doves and pigeons produce "crop milk," which is secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop. Both sexes produce this highly nutritious substance to feed to the young.

Systematics and evolution

This family is a highly coherent group with no members showing obvious links with other bird families, or vice versa. The dodo and solitaires are clearly related, as discussed below, but equally lacking in obvious links with other bird families. The limited fossil record also consists only of unequivocal Columbidae species. Links to the sandgrouse and parrots have been suggested, but resemblances to the first group are due to convergent evolution[How to reference and link to summary or text] and the second depend on the parrot-like features of the Tooth-billed Pigeon. However, the distinctive features of that bird seem to have arisen from its specialized diet rather than a real relationship to the parrots.

The family is usually divided into five subfamilies, but this is probably inaccurate. For example, the American ground and quail doves which are usually placed in the Columbinae seem to be two distinct subfamilies[1]. The order presented here follows Baptista et al. (1997) with some updates (Johnson & Clayton 2000, Johnson et al. 2001, Shapiro et al. 2002).

Note that the arrangement of genera and naming of subfamilies is in some cases provisional because analyzes of different DNA sequences yield results that differ, often radically, in the placement of certain (mainly Indo-Australian) genera. This ambiguity, probably caused by Long branch attraction, seems to confirm that the first pigeons evolved in the Australasian region, and that the "Treronidae" and allied forms (crowned and pheasant pigeons, for example) represent the earliest radiation of the group.

As the Dodo and Rodrigues Solitaire are in all likelihood part of the Indo-Australian radiation that produced the 3 small subfamilies mentioned above with the fruit-doves and -pigeons (including the Nicobar Pigeon), they are here included as a subfamily Raphinae, pending better material evidence of their exact relationships.

Exacerbating these issues, columbids are not well represented in the fossil record. No truly primitive forms have been found to date. The genus Gerandia which most likely belongs to the Columbinae has been described from Early Miocene deposits of France. Apart from that, all other fossils belong to extant genera. For these, and for the considerable number of more recently extinct prehistoric species, see the respective genus accounts.

A list of all the species, sortable by common and scientific name, is at list of Columbidae species

Subfamily Columbinae - typical pigeons & doves

Brown Cuckoo-dove, Macropygia phasianella.

Genus Columba including Aplopelia - Old World pigeons (33-34 living species, 2-3 recently extinct)

Genus Streptopelia including Stigmatopelia and Nesoenas - turtledoves (14-18 living species)

Genus Patagioenas - American pigeons; formerly included in Columba (17 species)

Genus Macropygia (10 species)

Genus Reinwardtoena (3 species)

Genus Turacoena (2 species)

Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, native to tropical southern Asia and Australia.

Subfamily N.N. - Bronzewings and relatives

Genus Turtur - African wood-doves (5 species; tentatively placed here)

Genus Oena - Namaqua Dove (tentatively placed here)

Genus Chalcophaps (2 species)

Genus Henicophaps (2 species)

Genus Phaps (3 species)

Genus Ocyphaps - Crested Pigeon

Genus Geophaps (3 species)

Genus Petrophassa - rock-pigeons (2 species)

Genus Geopelia (3-5 species)

Subfamily Leptotilinae - Zenaidine and quail-doves

Genus Zenaida (7 species)

Genus Ectopistes - Passenger Pigeon (extinct; 1914)


White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)

Genus Leptotila

  • White-tipped Dove, Leptotila verreauxi
  • White-faced Dove, Leptotila megalura
  • Grey-fronted Dove, Leptotila rufaxilla
  • Grey-headed Dove, Leptotila plumbeiceps
  • Pallid Dove, Leptotila pallida
  • Brown-backed Dove, Leptotila battyi
  • Grenada Dove, Leptotila wellsi
  • Caribbean Dove, Leptotila jamaicensis
  • Grey-chested Dove, Leptotila cassini
  • Ochre-bellied Dove, Leptotila ochraceiventris
  • Tolima Dove, Leptotila conoveri

Genus Geotrygon - quail-doves

  • Purplish-backed Quail-dove, Geotrygon lawrencii
  • Veracruz Quail-dove, Geotrygon carrikeri
  • Costa Rica Quail-dove, Geotrygon costaricensis
  • Russet-crowned Quail-dove, Geotrygon goldmani
  • Sapphire Quail-dove, Geotrygon saphirina
  • Grey-headed Quail-dove, Geotrygon caniceps
    • Hispaniolan Quail-dove, Geotrygon (caniceps) leucometopius
  • Crested Quail-dove, Geotrygon versicolor
  • Rufous-breasted Quail-dove, Geotrygon chiriquensis
  • Olive-backed Quail-dove, Geotrygon veraguensis
  • White-faced Quail-dove, Geotrygon albifacies
  • Lined Quail-dove, Geotrygon linearis
  • White-throated Quail-dove, Geotrygon frenata
  • Key West Quail-dove, Geotrygon chrysia
  • Bridled Quail-dove, Geotrygon mystacea
  • Violaceous Quail-dove, Geotrygon violacea
  • Ruddy Quail-dove, Geotrygon Montana

Genus Starnoenas

  • Blue-headed Quail-dove, Starnoenas cyanocephala

Subfamily Columbininae - American ground doves

File:Columbina inca.jpg

The Common Ground Dove

Genus Columbina

  • Common Ground Dove, Columbina passerina
  • Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Columbina minuta
  • Ecuadorian Ground Dove, Columbina buckleyi
  • Ruddy Ground Dove, Columbina talpacoti
  • Picui Dove, Columbina picui
  • Croaking Ground Dove, Columbina cruziana
  • Blue-eyed Ground Dove, Columbina cyanopis

Genus Claravis

  • Blue Ground Dove, Claravis pretiosa
  • Purple-winged Ground Dove, Claravis godefrida
  • Maroon-chested Ground-dove, Claravis mondetoura

Genus Metriopelia

  • Bare-faced Ground Dove, Metriopelia ceciliae
  • Moreno's Ground Dove, Metriopelia morenoi
  • Black-winged Ground Dove, Metriopelia melanoptera
  • Golden-spotted Ground Dove, Metriopelia aymara

Genus Scardafella - possibly belongs into Columbina

  • Inca Dove, Scardafella inca
  • Scaled Dove, Scardafella squammata

Genus Uropelia

  • Long-tailed Ground Dove, Uropelia campestris...

Luzon Bleeding-heart Pigeon Gallicolumba crinigera, native to the Philippines.

Subfamily N.N. - Indopacific ground doves

Genus Gallicolumba (16-17 living species, 3-4 recently extinct)

Genus Trugon

  • Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, Trugon terrestris

Victoria Crowned Pigeon Goura victoria in Bristol Zoo.

Subfamily Otidiphabinae - Pheasant Pigeon

Genus Otidiphaps - Pheasant Pigeon

Subfamily Didunculinae - Tooth-billed Pigeon

Genus Didunculus

  • Tooth-billed Pigeon, Didunculus strigirostris
  • Tongan Tooth-billed Pigeon, Didunculus placopedetes - prehistoric

Subfamily Gourinae - crowned pigeons

Genus Goura (3 species)

Subfamily N.N. ("Treroninae") - green and fruit-doves and imperial pigeons

Genus Ducula - imperial-pigeons

  • Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula poliocephala
  • White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula forsteni
  • Mindoro Imperial Pigeon, Ducula mindorensis
  • Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula radiata
  • Grey-necked Imperial Pigeon, Ducula carola
  • Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea
  • White-eyed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula perspicillata
  • Blue-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula concinna
  • Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Ducula pacifica
  • Micronesian Imperial Pigeon, Ducula oceanica
  • Polynesian Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aurorae
  • Nukuhiva Imperial Pigeon, Ducula galeata
  • Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula rubricera

    Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor.

  • Spice Imperial Pigeon, Ducula myristicivora
  • Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula rufigaster
  • Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula basilica
  • Finsch's Imperial Pigeon, Ducula finschii
  • Shining Imperial Pigeon, Ducula chalconota
  • Island Imperial Pigeon, Ducula pistrinaria
  • Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula rosacea
  • Christmas Imperial Pigeon, Ducula whartoni
  • Grey Imperial Pigeon, Ducula pickeringii
  • Peale's Imperial Pigeon, Ducula latrans
  • Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula brenchleyi
  • Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bakeri
  • New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, Ducula goliath
  • Pinon's Imperial Pigeon, Ducula pinon
  • Bismarck Imperial Pigeon, Ducula melanochroa
  • Collared Imperial Pigeon, Ducula mullerii
  • Zoe's Imperial Pigeon, Ducula zoeae
  • Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Ducula badia
  • Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Ducula lacernulata
  • Timor Imperial Pigeon, Ducula cineracea
  • Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bicolor
  • Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Ducula spilorrhoa
  • White Imperial Pigeon, Ducula luctuosa

Genus Lopholaimus - Topknot Pigeon

Kererū (New Zealand Pigeon), Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.

Genus Hemiphaga

  • Kererū Hemiphaga novaseelandiae
  • Parea Hemiphaga chathamensis

Genus Cryptophaps

  • Sombre Pigeon, Cryptophaps poecilorrhoa

Genus Gymnophaps - mountain-pigeons

  • Papuan Mountain-pigeon Gymnophaps albertisii
  • Long-tailed Mountain-pigeon Gymnophaps mada
  • Pale Mountain-pigeon Gymnophaps solomonensis

Genus Ptilinopus - fruit-doves (some 50 living species, 1-2 recently extinct)

Genus Natunaornis - Viti Levu Giant Pigeon (prehistoric)

Genus Drepanoptila

  • Cloven-feathered Dove, Drepanoptila holosericea

Genus Alectroenas - blue pigeons

  • Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas madagascariensis
  • Comoro Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas sganzini
  • Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas pulcherrima
  • Farquhar Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas sp. (extinct)
  • Mauritius Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas nitidissima (extinct)
  • Rodrigues Pigeon "Alectroenas" rodericana (extinct; probably distinct genus)

Subfamily Raphinae - didines

Genus Raphus - Dodo (extinct; late 17th century)

Genus Pezophaps - Rodrigues Solitaire (extinct; c.1730)

Placement unresolved

The unusual Nicobar Pigeon, Caloenas nicobarica


Love Dove decoys

Genus Caloenas

  • Nicobar Pigeon, Caloenas nicobarica
  • Greater Maned Pigeon, Caloenas canacorum (prehistoric)
  • Liverpool Pigeon, "Caloenas" maculata - extinct; probably distinct genus

Genus Treron - green pigeons

  • Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis
  • Little Green Pigeon, Treron olax
  • Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Treron vernans
  • Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Treron bicincta
  • Pompadour Green Pigeon, Treron pompadora
  • Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra
  • Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Treron griseicauda
  • Sumba Green Pigeon, Treron teysmannii
  • Flores Green Pigeon, Treron floris
  • Timor Green Pigeon, Treron psittacea
  • Large Green Pigeon, Treron capellei
  • Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Treron phoenicoptera
  • Bruce's Green Pigeon, Treron waalia
  • Madagascar Green Pigeon, Treron australis
  • African Green Pigeon, Treron calva
  • Pemba Green Pigeon, Treron pembaensis
  • Sao Tome Green Pigeon, Treron sanctithomae
  • Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Treron apicauda
  • Sumatran Green Pigeon, Treron oxyura
  • Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, Treron seimundi
  • Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Treron sphenura
  • White-bellied Green Pigeon, Treron sieboldii
  • Whistling Green Pigeon, Treron formosae

Wonga Pigeon, Leucosarcia melanoleuca, native to Australia.

Genus Phapitreron - brown doves

  • White-eared Brown Dove, Phapitreron leucotis
  • Amethyst Brown Dove, Phapitreron amethystina
  • Dark-eared Brown Dove, Phapitreron cinereiceps

Genus Leucosarcia - Wonga Pigeon

Genus Microgoura - Choiseul Crested Pigeon (extinct; early 20th century)

Genus Dysmoropelia

  • St Helena Dove, Dysmoropelia dekarchiskos (extinct)

Genus indeterminate

  • Henderson Island Archaic Pigeon, Columbidae gen. et sp. indet. (prehistoric)


Doves as food

Several species of pigeon or dove are used as food, and probably any could be; the powerful breast muscles characteristic of the family make excellent meat. In Europe the Wood Pigeon is commonly shot as a game bird, while Rock Pigeons were originally domesticated as a food species, and many breeds were developed for their meat-bearing qualities. The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was at least partly due to shooting for use as food.

Doves in religion

Doves are kosher, and they are the only birds that may be used for a korban. Other kosher birds may be eaten, but not brought as a korban. In the New Testament a dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

See also

  • Alphabetical species list


  • Baptista, L. F.; Trail, P. W. & Horblit, H. M. (1997): Order Columbiformes. In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (editors): Handbook of birds of the world, Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-22-9
  • Johnson, Kevin P. & Clayton, Dale H. (2000): Nuclear and Mitochondrial Genes Contain Similar Phylogenetic. Signal for Pigeons and Doves (Aves: Columbiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 14(1): 141–151. PDF fulltext
  • Johnson, Kevin P.; de Kort, Selvino; Dinwoodey, Karen, Mateman, A. C.; ten Cate, Carel; Lessells, C. M. & Clayton, Dale H. (2001): A molecular phylogeny of the dove genera Streptopelia and Columba. Auk 118(4): 874-887. PDF fulltext
  • Shapiro, Beth; Sibthorpe, Dean; Rambaut, Andrew; Austin, Jeremy; Wragg, Graham M.; Bininda-Emonds, Olaf R. P.; Lee, Patricia L. M. & Cooper, Alan (2002): Flight of the Dodo. Science 295: 1683.
  1. REDIRECT Template:Doi

(HTML abstract) Supplementary information


  1. Basically, the conventional treatment had 2 large subfamilies, one for the fruit-doves, imperial pigeons and fruit-pigeons, and another for nearly all of the remaining species. Additionally, there were 3 monotypic subfamilies, one each for the genera Goura, Otidiphaps and Didunculus. The old subfamily Columbinae consists of 5 distinct lineages, whereas the other 4 groups are more or less accurate representations of the evolutionary relationships.

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