The rock pigeon

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A white rock pigeon is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District. Photos by Isaac Cohen

The rock pigeon

The rock pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the common pigeon or city pigeon, is an omnipresent bird found in urban and rural areas worldwide, including Shenzhen.


Native to Europe, North Africa, and southwestern Asia, this remarkable bird has been introduced to many regions across the globe, including the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. It has become one of the most prevalent avian species on Earth.


Measuring approximately 35 centimeters in length, the rock pigeon possesses a distinctively plump body with a small head, short neck, and rounded wings. While their plumage exhibits various colors, the most frequently observed appearance features a bluish-gray body adorned with two black bars on the wings and a white rump. The head and breast are often iridescent, showing shades of purple and green in the sunlight.


A rock pigeon is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

Rock pigeons are social birds often found in flocks of up to several hundred individuals. They are also highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments, including cities, towns, and farmland. They are often seen perched on buildings, ledges, or other structures.


The rock pigeon is primarily granivorous, meaning they feed on seeds and grains. However, it also eats insects, fruits, and other types of plant material. In urban settings, it often scavenges for food, eating discarded scraps from human settlements. This adaptive behavior has aided them in colonizing entire cities, and become a nuisance in certain regions. It is crucial to refrain from feeding them in parks.


A rock pigeon is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

Rock pigeons are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds. They breed throughout the year, with a peak breeding season in spring and summer. The female lays two white eggs, which both parents incubate for about two or three weeks. The chicks hatch in a relatively undeveloped state and require extensive care from their dedicated parents. They fledge after about five weeks and become sexually mature at around six months.


Currently, the rock pigeon is not a threatened species. Due to its high population density and its tendency to cause damage to structures and buildings, it is even considered a pest species. However, their populations have experienced declines in some areas, as a result of habitat loss and environmental pollution.