Doves Around The World – Our Different Impressions

Pigeons and doves are universally recognized birds around the world. Whether you look at Turtle Doves and their representation in religion, or the Feral Pigeons found in almost all large urban regions, pigeons and doves have become cultural icons in our time.

With around 300 different species found worldwide, pigeons and doves, both very similar birds in the family Columbidae, are found everywhere in the world, in different habitats – mountains, suburban areas, forests, and at the center of bustling urban life. But does where and how we see them change the way we perceive these pigeons? In this post, I am looking at a couple of different birds from the Columbidae family, and how differently we perceive them in their settings.

Feral Pigeons (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) – December 2019

This group of birds is universally recognizable – a huge flock of Feral Pigeons. Feral Pigeons descend from the same family of Rock Doves, but descend from groups that were domesticated, and which have now developed in large urban cities. They can be seen anywhere, all cooing loudly and pecking at various objects on the ground. This particular photo is from one of the most active cities in the world – Mumbai, India. Feral Pigeons are a common and active sight here.

Pigeons here are often considered a nuisance, or pests. Given that they tend to interfere in social areas, take over large spaces, and eat humans’ food, they are generally not very well-liked by people. However, they are now a common sight associated with the stereotypical ‘concrete jungle’.

Mourning Dove (Fremont, CA) – May 2020

In much of North American suburbia, the Mourning Dove is a common sight. Known for their pale beige-cream color and its soft, mournful “hoo-OO-hoo hoo hoo” call, these doves can be found sitting in small flocks on lawns or roofs, often foraging for seeds.

This dove, which I photographed in my front yard’s maple trees, embodies the stereotyped image of a Mourning Dove – a calm suburban representative of the Columbidae family, as opposed to the noisy, active feral pigeons of the larger cities.

Rock Pigeon (Vargas Plateau Regional Park, CA) – October 2020

The parent species of the Feral Pigeon, Rock Pigeons live in the mountains and can be commonly found perching on fences, in trees, or on cell towers. They look identical to most of the city pigeons we see, but behave differently.

How would you view this bird? If you saw it on a hike, you would probably be surprised by a lot of things – where are the fifty other pigeons surrounding this guy? Usually, wild Rock Pigeons tend to hang out in groups of 15 or less. Why aren’t they barraging you for food? Living in the wild, they aren’t as accustomed to humans as their urban subspecies, and we intimidate them. Despite looking practically identical, this pigeon and the feral pigeon are so different!

Band-Tailed Pigeon (Fremont , CA) – August 2020

What a beautiful bird! Larger than both the Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon, the Band-Tailed Pigeon has a pale, purple-grey body, red eyes, yellow bill and talons and a barred collar. When you think of a ‘pigeon’, this may not be the first bird that pops into your mind, especially if you are used to urban life. When I first saw this bird, on the cedar trees outside my study window, I was amazed! At a cursory glance, I thought “oh, that’s a large dove” and then realized – “Oh my god! This is an entirely new species!” This bird looks like it’s from a deep region in the forest, and your first thought is probably not “this bird looks like those irritating birds outside the train station”. 

But the Band-Tailed pigeon is closely related to all of these birds! Like the Mourning Dove, it is a suburban dove and can be found on lawns, trees in your yard, or sometimes on your roof. However, it is only found along the western coast of North America. A closer look and you’ll realize that the bird’s appearance – its shape, body proportions, and so on – are all very similar to most pigeons that you will know. But its unique color scheme and larger size will throw you off, and go against your preconceived notions of what a ‘pigeon’ looks like!

Spotted Dove (Kabini, Karnataka, India) – January 2019

At first glance, this bird looks just like a Mourning Dove. But take a closer look! Red eyes? Barred wings? Is this a Rock Pigeon? Some mix of the two? 

This is actually a Spotted Dove, which I spotted at the Kabini River Lodge in Karnataka, India. These doves have similar behaviors to the Rock Pigeons we mentioned earlier – they don’t like humans and don’t live in areas where humans are abundant (unlike the Band-Tailed Pigeon, Mourning Dove and Feral Pigeons). 

Despite looking like it would fit perfectly in a suburban area, these doves were, at first, completely native to wilder areas. In a way, the Spotted Dove was kind of the opposite of the Band-Tailed Pigeon – although it looks like it would perfectly integrate with suburban life, it could not be found outside the natural wilderness.

Eventually, these doves were introduced to different areas around the world, and are now similar to Mourning Doves in their habitats and behavior. This dove is fascinating, though – it looks like a mix of two different species (The Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon), and went through a complete change in habitat – from being native to wilder areas, to being completely integrated into suburban life!

All in all, it’s fascinating how despite all being part of the same family – having similar appearances, diets, sounds – these doves are such different birds! And how they all appear so different to us. Despite being important cultural icons in our society, and being well-known, doves and pigeons are a huge family of birds, with species that have completely different behaviors!

You can learn more about the Rock Dove on my bird identification website FindYourBird, over here.

You can learn more about the Mourning Dove on FindYourBird over here.

You can learn more about the Band-Tailed Pigeon on FindYourBird over here.

Published by kabirsamsi

High School Senior in Fremont, CA. I enjoy music, programming and ornithology. My other hobbies include biking and watching soccer and cricket. Check out my birding blog, KBirdVentures! (link below) to see my photos and read up on different news in the avian world.

2 thoughts on “Doves Around The World – Our Different Impressions

  1. Loved this unique perspective on doves and pigeons. Another example of how the interactions between the observed and observer can influence behaviors.

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