Types of Pigeons
A number of pigeon breeds are raised domestically — for sport, for hobby and for food. When these domestic pigeons are accidentally or deliberately released into the wild, they cannot fend for themselves in the same way that a wild pigeon can. These are the pigeons we most commonly rescue and take in at Palomacy.
King Pigeons are bred for food (squab). They are larger than both feral and homing pigeons, and are pure white with pink beaks. King Pigeons are sometimes bought and released by well-meaning individuals who “save” them from live animal markets. Unfortunately, King Pigeons face certain death in the wild since they do not have proper flight or survival skills. They do, however, make excellent pets and aviary residents. They are tame and accustomed to human contact.
Racing and Homing Pigeons
Homing pigeons can be a variety of colors, but are commonly blue (similar to wild pigeons), or white. These pigeons are raced competitively, used as wedding and event “doves,” or kept as pets. They are muscular and strong flyers with powerful homing instincts, and they are trained to return to their lofts after a race or event. Homers and racers do, however, get lost or injured. Because they are banded, you can often trace their ownership by the information on the band. Occasionally, a lost homing pigeon will assimilate into a wild flock and you may see the occasional banded pigeon foraging with her wild mates.
Fancy Pigeons are specialized breeds kept by hobbyists and pigeon fanciers. Some hobbyists show their pigeons in competitions, similar to dog shows. Others keep fancy pigeons as personal pets. There are many varieties of fancy pigeons including breeds like Pouters, Tumblers and Owls. The gallery below showcases examples of the many fancy breeds.
Most pigeons you’ll find in urban or suburban settings are feral Rock Pigeons. These are the common blue variety of pigeons that roost on buildings and forage for food in public plazas. In the countryside, they often roost in barns or around bridges and natural cliff areas.
Feral pigeons sometimes cross-breed with domestic pigeons, passing on color and plumage variations down through generations.
Feral pigeons are well adapted to cities, suburbs and rural areas. Unless you find an injured feral pigeon or an orphaned baby, wild pigeons should generally be left alone to live as wild birds.
Band-tailed Pigeons are wild pigeons native to North America and the Pacific Coast. True to their name, these pigeons have a long, gray banded tail and also a white band and iridescent patch at the nape of the neck. They’re about 14 to 18 inches long with a bright yellow beak and feet. Band-tailed Pigeons do not show the same color variations as Rock Pigeons. These pigeons live at forest edges and in woodlands, both coniferous and deciduous, and spend much of their time in trees. Acorns are one of their favorite foods, but they also forage for berries, grains, mast-producing plants and other available resources, depending on the habitat and time of year.