Feral pigeon

Feral pigeon

Columba livia domestica

Common name:

Feral pigeon

Scientific name:

Columba livia domestica

Alternative common names:


The feral pigeon is a descendant of the domestic homing pigeons introduced to South Africa from Europe in the 1800s. Several traits have allowed feral flocks to increase in numbers and dominate the urban landscape due to the availability of food, fresh water and secure breeding sites. They carry a number of potential diseases such assalmonella, tuberculosis and ornithosis.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 3.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

The whole of South Africa.

How does it spread?

Human beings are responsible for the spread of this bird through pet trade.

Why is it a problem?

Their droppings, nesting materials and carcasses can contain a wide variety of mites and insects. These can then infest areas where people live and work and cause disease or allergic reaction. They can also spread disease to indigenous birds, reducing their population.

What does it look like?

Description: The white lower back of the feral pigeon is its best identification characteristic; the two black bars on its pale grey wings are also distinctive. The tail has a black band on the end and the outer web of the tail feathers are outlined in white. It is strong and quick on the wing, dashing out from sea caves, flying low over the water, its lighter grey rump showing well from above.
Young birds show little lustre and are duller. Eye colour of the pigeon is generally orange but a few pigeons may have white-grey eyes. The eyelids are orange in colour and are encapsulated in a grey-white eye ring. The feet are red to pink.

Habitat: Feral pigeons prefer human habitations and are commonly found around farm yards, grain elevators, feed mills, parks, city buildings, bridges and other structures.

Breeding: It breeds at any time of the year, but peak times are spring and summer. It builds a flimsy platform nest of straw and sticks, under cover, often located on the window ledges of buildings. Eight to 12 days after mating, the femals lays one to three (usually two) white eggs, which hatch after 18 days. Chicks fledge (leave the nest) in 25-32 days (45 days in midwinter).

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