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Doves Pigeons and Dodos: Columbiformes

Behavior And Reproduction

Some pigeons and doves are solitary, with individuals living alone. The majority of species, however, form small or large flocks, and many even breed together in large colonies. Pigeons and doves often gather near food sources. For example, as many as 100,000 wood pigeons have been observed in a grain field in Germany. During the breeding season, the South American eared dove regularly gathers in flocks of as many as five million individuals. The North America passenger pigeon, which is now extinct, may once have been the most abundant bird on earth. Flocks of passenger pigeons could include as many as billions of individuals.

Most pigeons and doves make noises that sound like "coos" and "oohs." Other species can make whistles, grunts, or clicks. A number of species are almost completely silent.


Birds of the order Columbiformes have an unusual strategy for escaping predators. Their feathers are only loosely attached to the skin and fall out very easily. When a predator grabs a pigeon or dove, a large number of feathers are shed at once, leaving the predator with a mouthful of feathers while the bird quickly escapes.

Courtship in pigeons and doves involves bowing, stretching, and flying. Pigeons and doves are monogamous, a single male mates with a single female during the breeding season. However, the same mate is not necessarily kept from one breeding season to the next. Arboreal species build a simple nest of twigs, while terrestrial species scrape a small depression on the ground. The female lays one or two eggs at a time in most species, although some species may lay as many as four. Species that breed in large colonies, or large pigeons and doves in rainforest habitats, tend to produce only one egg during the breeding season. The eggs are usually white in color, though some species have cream or brownish eggs. Pigeon chicks, which are sometimes called "squabs," are helpless at birth, and have only a few feathers. Both parents help feed and take care of the young. Pigeons and doves are unique among birds in that adults produce a cheesy secretion in their crops known as "crop milk" which they feed to their young. This means that even when food is scarce, parents are able to feed the young. Chicks grow very quickly, and are able to leave the nest between seven and twenty-eight days after hatching. Some leave the nest before their wing feathers are fully grown. Chicks tend to have brown feathers, and only gradually take on the adult coloration.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsDoves Pigeons and Dodos: Columbiformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, DOVES PIGEONS DODOS AND PEOPLE