2 minute read

Pigeons and Doves: Columbidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Many species of pigeons and doves form large or small flocks for feeding and other activities. Within flocks, there are dominant and subordinate individuals. The dominant birds, which tend to be larger in size, are usually found in the center of flocks. The smaller, subordinate birds are closer to the edge.


Fruit doves eat only fruit. This is an unusual diet among pigeons and doves, and among birds in general, because fruit contains very little protein compared to seeds and insects. Because of their low-protein diet, fruit doves lay only one egg at a time, rather than two like most other pigeons and doves. Also, fruit doves feed their chicks crop milk throughout the nestling period. In other pigeons and doves, adults feed young crop milk for a few days and then gradually replace it with other foods.

Most species of pigeons and doves are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), a single male breeds with a single female during the breeding season. Courtship, behaviors that lead to mating, in many species involve flight displays. For example, male wood pigeons fly several feet upwards, clap their wings nine times, and then glide. Flight displays are not found in forest or terrestrial species, however. In most pigeons and doves, males perform a "bow-coo" display involving cooing and bowing just before mating. Each pigeon and dove species has a unique "bow-coo" display.

Pigeons build a simple nest of sticks, straw, and other material. The male collects nesting material and passes it to the female, who tucks it around her body. Pairs are territorial and defend their nesting areas from other members of the species. In fights over territory, individuals peck at each other's heads, particularly at the skin around the eye, and beat their wings. In most species, the female lays two eggs at a time. In a few species, only one egg is laid. In many species, both parents share incubation duties, with males incubating, sitting on the nest, from morning to afternoon, and females incubating from the afternoon to the next morning. Eggs hatch after eleven to thirty days. The young are altricial (al-TRISH-uhl), they hatch at an early developmental stage, blind and with few or no feathers. For the first few days, pigeons and doves feed their young crop milk, a fatty substance produced in the crop organs, located in the throat. Both parents produce crop milk. Chicks are able to leave the nest between seven and twenty-eight days after hatching.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsPigeons and Doves: Columbidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Rock Pigeon (columba Livia): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DOVES PIGEONS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS