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Who doesn’t know Him, the dove. Chances are that this is one of the birds you hear in the morning cooing when you wake up. The grey city pigeon is particularly common in the Netherlands. The pigeon falls under the Columbiformes, i.e. pigeons. The pigeons can be subdivided into pigeons (Columbidae) and dodos.

Pigeons can be found almost anywhere in the world. The places where most different species occur are the Australian and Oriental (Indomal) areas. Pigeons are probably the most common bird species in the world. This article is mainly about the urban pigeon, as it is often a nuisance.


You can encounter the pigeon in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In the Netherlands you will mainly meet the rock pigeon, city pigeon, Turkish turtle and wood pigeon. In 2010, an oriental turtle was even spotted in the Netherlands.

City pigeon

The city pigeon (Columba livia domestica) is a first domesticated and then again wild descendant of the rock pigeon. As the name implies, urban pigeons are very common in the city. Wherever there are people, you come across the city pigeon. In cities this species can reach a high population density, they breed all year round and choose their own partner. They like to live in cities because there is a lot of food to be found and they can find rocky breeding and hiding places here.

Rock pigeon

The rock pigeon (Columba livia) is the wild predecessor of the city pigeon and is an indigenous species in the Benelux. About 500 years before Christ this species was tamed in North Africa and from there arose the domesticated pigeon. The offspring are used as food, racing pigeons, ornamental pigeons or racing pigeons.

Turkish turret

The Turkish turtle (Streptopelia decaocto), also known as the Tortel dove, is now found in almost all of northwestern Europe. Where the rock pigeon and city pigeon are similar, the turtle disc has a lot of chiquer appearance. A turtledove has a light beige-grey plumage and a striking black and white color band around the neck.

Wood pigeon

The pigeon (Columba palumbus) is the largest pigeon species in Western Europe. With their purple-grey head, grey upper parts and grey-pink breast they look like the city and rock dove. This pigeon species can be found all over Europe, with only Iceland excepted.

Living area of a city pigeon

The city pigeon is a globally occurring species. Each country has urban areas where the urban pigeon can nestle. In places where there are not many cities, the city pigeon will look for barns, deserted houses, bridges and other man-made structures. In places with lots of nature you will not encounter the city pigeon, but its wild predecessor the rock pigeon. The buildings and ledges on which the city pigeon nestles are a kind of replacement for the rocks by the sea.

In the UK

The general description of the urban pigeon also applies to the Netherlands. In the Randstad you will encounter the city pigeon the most, but in every city or village there are places where this pigeon is.

Literal characteristics of a pigeon

In terms of appearance it is sometimes quite difficult to keep the city, wood and rock pigeon apart. Below you can read about the characteristics of the city pigeon.


One way in which the urban pigeon distinguishes itself from other pigeon species is by means of fodder. The so-called coldiness (the amount of feathers on the legs) is very low in city pigeons. A small crest sometimes occurs, but generally city pigeons do not have feathers on their legs, unlike ornamental pigeons.

Powder color

City pigeons have a predominantly grey body with a dark grey head. On the wings you will find two black stripes on both sides. The neck and chest are often purple-green from the top to the bottom. Yet there are also city pigeons that have different colours, such as all-white or shiny grey-green. The legs are mostly light grey with red toes.


The urban pigeon is mainly found in urban areas, where it is easy to breed on the edges and ridges of buildings and bridges. Pigeons can also be found on terraces and large squares. Wherever people are there are pigeons. After all, there are many people who give pieces of food to the pigeon and there is enough waste on the street and in alleys that the pigeon can eat. But it also happens that they collect food up to a few kilometres outside the city by looking for fields with grains or other crops.

What does a pigeon eat?

Pigeons naturally like to eat vegetable food, such as seeds, buds and leaves. They also like crop residues on fields. City pigeons have expanded their menu by eating a lot of litter that they encounter in the cities, such as fries and bread. There are many people who feed the pigeons, but in big cities there is also a lot of waste which the pigeons eat. It goes without saying, therefore, that city pigeons are often too thick.

Enemies of the pigeon

The pigeon, especially young pigeons, still want to be the victim of birds of prey, rats, martens and weasels. Marters or weasels can roam the nest, while adult pigeons can be taken to graze on birds of prey. Fortunately for the pigeon birds of prey don’t prefer to come to busy urban areas so they have few enemies in the city.

Propagation and lifespan

Almost everything seems like pigeons choose a partner for life, although it is possible that this relationship ceases to exist or that a female has several partners. Because pigeons are able to produce crunch milk, they can breed all year round. Cow’s milk, or pigeon’s milk, is a milky substance that is made in the head (a hollow in the throat) of pigeons after the youngsters have hatched. The young are fed with this for the first few days.

In the wild, a pigeon reaches an average age of 3 to 4 years, but in captivity, a pigeon can reach 20 years in good conditions.

Affection and diseases

Once a pigeon in your garden is fun, but they can also cause a lot of nuisance. The nuisance mainly occurs in the form of soiling and contamination of facades, information panels, sidewalks and balconies by all pigeon faeces. Noise pollution also occurs.

In addition, city pigeons can also cause bacteria and diseases. Pigeons can carry bacterial species such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. Coli with them, these can cause gastrointestinal problems and this can be dangerous for young children and sick or old adults.


Combating pigeons by one person is often difficult. You can catch and kill the pigeons, but there are so many that it is of no use. Some cities have used birds of prey that catch and chase the pigeons or have killed a large number of pigeons by gasification, but this is causing resistance among the inhabitants of the cities, as it is pathetic to kill them.

So far it seems best to help by imposing a ban on feed in cities, which means that the pigeons don’t have much to look for anymore. In addition, small metal anti-pipe pins are placed on potential sitting and nesting places so that they can no longer be thrown underneath.

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