The pigeon belongs to the Columbidae family. It is a familiar bird in that it is very present in our urban and rural environments, but it is not necessarily very popular because there are a few too many of them.
Description of the pigeon
Pigeons are birds with stocky bodies, proportionately small heads, and cone-shaped beaks, like other members of the Columbidae family. There are around thirty species of pigeons. The color of their plumage varies considerably, ranging from shades of gray to shades of white, sometimes with iridescence. A pigeon weighs between 500 and 800 g for a body which reaches 40 cm for the largest species, and a wingspan of 80 cm. When they take flight, their rapid wing beats and direct flights are striking features that make them easily recognizable. They are found on all continents. A pigeon lives 5 to 10 years.
Pigeons most often form stable pairs throughout their lives. They build rudimentary nests from twigs and grasses, which they often place on building ledges. Females lay 1 to 2 eggs. Both parents take turns brooding. The male and female also share the feeding of the young, with the crop milk that they produce using a specific gland.
The presence of the pigeon
Pigeons are social birds and live in colonies, which gives the impression that they are invading our landscapes. The adaptation of pigeons to the urban environment is one of their most striking characteristics. A pigeon’s “natural” diet consists mainly of seeds and fruits, sometimes small insects. But, in urban areas, they feed on food waste. They also find sheltered places to perch there.
In many areas, these birds are protected by wildlife conservation laws. However, their proliferation and the associated droppings can pose problems in terms of public health, thus leading to their classification as pests, and therefore to occasional hunting authorizations.
Use of pigeons by humans
Pigeons haven’t always been pests. They have even provided services to man throughout history. Given their speed of movement, their ability to return to their starting point and their resistance to harsh conditions, pigeons have been effective messengers during wars. They thus helped save lives and coordinate important military operations.
Pigeons are also an important symbol of peace and freedom in many cultures around the world. In the biblical story, a white dove holding an olive branch in its beak announces to Noah the end of the flood. It has thus become a symbol of the end of conflicts and hope for peace.