What kind of image do you have when you think of pigeons?
Pigeons, which we often see in parks, stations, and cities, are very familiar birds to us. A white pigeon with an olive leaf is a symbol of peace and also a sign of good luck, so it has a good image.
Furthermore, pigeons have excellent flying and homing abilities, and have been used as messenger pigeons in the field of communication since ancient times. However, pigeons are also hated as nuisance birds.
Let’s find out more about pigeons, which we may think we know but don’t, and their relationship with us humans.



~ Basic information. ~

Columbiformes Columbidae.

Length : They are about 25 cm in small ones, about 33 cm in rock pigeons and ring-necked doves, and about 40 cm in large ones such as raven pigeons.
Body features : Birds of the pigeon family have a sturdy body and a small head compared to their body. Their body is covered with soft feathers that grow densely, and their chest muscles are well developed.

Relationship with humans : Pigeons are thought to have been domesticated as early as the Neolithic period, about 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, and have been improved by humans over their long history, resulting in various types of pigeons.


The body length and habitat of the main pigeons that inhabit the Japan.

< Native species. (5 genera, 13 species)>

Columba : about 40cm.


They live throughout Japan south of central Honshu. The red-headed wood pigeon that lives in the Ogasawara Islands is designated as a natural monument. Species (Japanese Wood pigeon, red-headed wood pigeon, Yonakuni Wood Pigeon, Ryukyu Wood Pigeon, Ogasawara Wood Pigeon).


Streptopelia : about 33cm.
They live throughout Japan. The white dove that lives in northern Chiba Prefecture, southwestern Ibaraki Prefecture, and eastern Saitama Prefecture is designated as a natural monument. Species (Orientle Turtle Dove, Ryukyu Turtle Dove, Collared Dove *There is also a theory that the white dove is an alien species).

Treron : about 33cm.
They live in Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, and migrate to Honshu in the summer in Hokkaido. Species (Japanese green pigeon, Ryukyu red-bellied green pigeon, Whistling Green-pigeon).

Streptopelia : about 23-25cm.
They migrate to western Japan as winter birds. They breed from central China to East Asia. Species (Red turtle dove).

Chalcophaps : about 25cm.
They live in the southwestern islands south of Miyako Island. Species (Ryukyu Emerald dove).

< Alien species. >

Rock dove : about 33㎝.
Found from Hokkaido to Okinawa (excluding the Ogasawara Islands).  

Pigeons that inhabit the world.

Wild pigeons live in almost every place in the world except for some deserts and uninhabited areas such as the Arctic and Antarctic, and their number is estimated to be about 400 million.

Wild pigeons originally lived in Europe, Central Asia, and North Africa, and settled in places such as cliff recesses, but they were already domesticated (birds that were bred by humans) for food during the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, as evidenced by the cuneiform and hieroglyphic writings left by ancient people.

Humans also used pigeons’ homing instinct to use them as carrier pigeons.




Pigeon’s Q&A.

Q, Where did the pigeon get its name?

They are called “Pigeon” in English, but in Japanese they are called “Hato”. Why are they called Hato in Japanese? This time, I will introduce the origin of the name.

The name Hato is thought to come from the sound of hatahata (batabata) when they fly away. Also, the kanji “鳩” is made up of <九> and <鳥>, but there is a theory that this nine came from the cry of ku-ku-.


Q, Why do pigeons live there?

The pigeons that are often seen in Japan are Rock dove and Orientle Turtle Dove. Rock pigeon, the ancestor of Rock dove, was kept as a pet bird in many homes, but originally it made its nest in a high rocky place surrounded by three sides. Rock dove is a wild version of Rock pigeon, and lives throughout Japan, and makes its nest in places that are surrounded by buildings, bridges, balconies, etc., where it does not rain.

Orientle Turtle Dove is distributed throughout Japan, but it becomes scarce in winter in Hokkaido and northern Honshu, and it is considered a summer bird in Hokkaido. It lives in urban areas, parks, forests and bright forests in mountainous areas, but it also makes its nest on buildings such as station buildings in urban areas. It combines twigs and other things on trees and makes a dish-shaped nest, but it also makes its nest on artificial structures in urban areas.


Q,What do pigeons eat?

Pigeons eat plant seeds, grains, beans, and also candies and bread crumbs that have fallen on the ground, and stones. Huh? Stones? You might think. Actually, not only pigeons but many birds eat stones and sand. These stones and sand are used to digest food.

Birds have two stomachs called “proventriculus or glandular stomach” and “gizzard or muscular stomach”. The proventriculus breaks down what you eat with acidic digestive juices, just like a human stomach. The gizzard is the part called the gizzard, where you put the stones and sand you swallowed and crush the food you swallowed without chewing. The ancestors of birds, dinosaurs, also had stones in their stomachs.



Q,How do pigeons raise chicks?

Pigeons usually lay two eggs and incubate them for 14 to 21 days. The period from hatching to fledging is about 25 to 40 days. Normally, even if birds are herbivorous, chicks are fed animal protein such as insects, but pigeon chicks are raised with high-protein milk called pigeon milk.

This pigeon milk is made in a part called the crop of both male and female parent birds. Pigeon milk is rich in nutrients and similar to protein for athletes, so it’s okay not to eat insects! For the first few days after hatching, they are given only pigeon milk, and gradually soft food is mixed in as the chicks grow.


Q, Why do pigeons walk shaking their heads?

There are several theories as to why pigeons shake their heads as they walk, but the main one is that they are not shaking their heads, but stopping their heads. The reason why they need to stop their heads is because their eyes are on the side of their face, so they see the scenery flowing. It’s like looking out the window from a running train.

Since it’s hard to see when the scenery is flowing, they stick their heads out first and pull their bodies closer while stopping their head movement. By doing so, the position of their eyes is fixed at that moment, so they can see the scenery stop without flowing. There are also other theories, such as “to walk stably”.


Q,Pigeons have two names in English, but are there any differences?

Pigeons have two names in English, dove and pigeon. There is no clear definition of the difference, but dove is a “clean pigeon” that is kept by people, and pigeon is a “dirty pigeon” that is in parks and stations. “Dove” also sometimes means a white pigeon as a symbol of peace.

Q, Why is the white dove a symbol of peace?

There have been books written since ancient times that pigeons bring good news. In the flood legend of Noah’s Ark in the Old Testament, Noah learned that the flood was over when the pigeon he released returned with an olive leaf in its mouth.

Also, in Greek mythology, they were the birds loved by the goddess Aphrodite, in Judaism they were considered ritually pure birds and offered to God as sacrifices. In Christianity, a white pigeon symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, it is said that the image of pigeons as a symbol of peace spread throughout the world because of the poster (a picture of a pigeon flying with its wings spread and an olive leaf added) that Picasso created for the “First World Peace Congress”.


Q, How can carrier pigeons come back from far away without hesitation?

Pigeons have the ability to return to their nests even if they are 1000 to 2000 km away. This ability has been used for a long time, and they have been used as carrier pigeons to deliver newspapers, news, and confidential documents for the military and others.

So how can pigeons find their way back to their nests without a map or navigation? There are several theories, but the most plausible one is the “magnetic compass theory”, which suggests that pigeons use the Earth’s magnetic field to determine their direction. However, the exact mechanism is still not clear.


Q,How fast can pigeons fly?

Normal rock doves fly at speeds of 30 to 50 km per hour, but racing pigeons compete for speed and can fly at an average speed of 71 km per hour and a maximum speed of 157 km per hour. There are also racing pigeons that have flown 1400 km!


Q,How is pigeon racing conducted?

Pigeon racing, which uses the homing instinct of pigeons and makes it a sport, has many competitions held every year. The competitions are divided into 100 km to 1,000 km, and pigeons are tagged on their legs, released from a designated point, and compete for the time it takes to return to their nest, which is the goal.


Q,How do pigeons croak?

Rock doves make a rhythmic sound like “coo-coo” or “goroppo-goroppo”, and oriental turtle doves make a sound like “dedde poppo”.

Q,Why are pigeons hated?

Pigeons have a strong reproductive capacity, and enter the breeding season about half a year after they are born. They are in heat almost all year round except for midsummer, so they can lay eggs 7 to 8 times a year. Also, pigeons can produce crop milk and raise their chicks even in seasons when there is little food, so they can breed all year round.

Pigeons, which have a vigorous reproductive capacity, have settled in parks, stations, balconies of houses and parts of buildings, and cause problems such as fecal damage and noise, so they have come to be regarded as nuisance birds.


Q,Are there pigeons with beautiful colors?

Yes, there are many beautiful pigeons living on Earth. I’ll show you some pictures!

Some of the pigeons that live in jungles such as Southeast Asia and Oceania are very beautiful. There are various theories as to why they became colorful, but one of the most plausible ones is that the jungle has abundant fruits that serve as food, and they can hide themselves in branches and leaves, so they have less risk of being preyed upon, and as a result of putting all their effort into appealing to females, they became colorful.

<Pink-necked Green Pigeon:Treron.>
Widely distributed in Southeast Asia, the female has a greenish color overall. They eat fruits.


<Nicobar pigeon.>
They live between the Bay of Bengal and the Malay Archipelago. They have feathers that shine in rainbow colors.
They are said to be the closest to the “dodo”, which is biologically extinct.


<Victoria crowned pigeon:Goura.>
They live in New Guinea and surrounding small islands. They are endangered species. They are the largest type of pigeon.
They have a beautiful fan-shaped crest on their head and white decorative feathers at the tip.


※ Fancy pigeon, a pigeon that humans have improved for ornamental purposes, and you will be amazed by its splendid design.

<Frill bag pigeon.>
A show variety of pigeons that were artificially crossed with rock doves. Their feathers are curly.


<Jacobin Pigeon.>
A show pigeon with long feathers around its neck. Its ancestor is the rock dove.


<Fantail Pigeon.>
A pure white pigeon with 20 to 36 tail feathers, which spread like a fan. Its ancestor is the rock dove.





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