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the web of life in southern Africa

Columba livia (Rock dove, Feral pigeon)

Tuinduif [Afrikaans]; Leeba-la-sekhooa [South Sotho]; Rotsduif [Dutch]; Pigeon biset [French]; Haustaube [German]; Pombo-doméstico [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Columbiformes > Family: Columbidae > Genus: Columba

Columba livia (Feral pigeon)

Columba livia (Rock dove, Feral pigeon)

Feral pigeon. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Feral pigeon. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

The Rock dove is originally native to SE Europe, SW Asia, India, Arabia, N Africa and British Isles but is now common in many southern African cities, as well as other cities around the world. It has been selectively bred into a wide variety of colours, such as a mix of white, grey and fluorescent green. It feeds mainly on seeds, other plant matter and discarded food left by humans. Both sexes build the nest, which usually placed in buildings and bridges. It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 16-19 days. In Europe, the chicks stay in the nest for 35-37 days, before fledging, at which point they become fully independent.

Distribution and habitat

Originally native to south-eastern Europe, south-western Asia, India, Arabia, north Africa and British Isles but it is now common in many southern African cities, as well as other cities around the world. It lives in urban areas and parks, railway yards, informal settlements and cultivated areas.

Distribution of Rock dove in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites


Mainly eats seeds, as well as discarded human food and plant matter. It typically forages on open ground, such as pavements, roads, lawns and bare soil. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
    • green shoots
    • berries
    • leaves
    • cereal plants
      • wheat
      • sorghum
      • oats
  • Discarded human food
    • bread
    • biscuits
  • Animals
    • molluscs
    • earthworms


  • It builds its own nest, which is a scruffy collection of twigs, wire, feathers and other material, usually placed on ledges of buildings or bridges.
  • It can lay 1-2 eggs at any time of year.
  • Incubation starts with the first laid egg, and is done by both sexes for 16-19 days.
  • In Europe, the chicks stay in the nest for 35-37 days. They become fully independent when they learn to fly.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.