Are doves just fancy pigeons?

Answered by Robert Dupre

Doves and pigeons are indeed closely related and belong to the same family of birds, Columbidae. This family is incredibly diverse, encompassing over 300 species of birds, with some notable differences in size, appearance, and behavior. While both doves and pigeons share certain characteristics such as round bodies, short necks, and thin beaks, there are some distinctions between the two.

One of the primary differences between doves and pigeons lies in their size. Generally, doves are smaller in stature compared to pigeons. Doves tend to have a more delicate and slender build, whereas pigeons are often larger and more robust. This distinction in size can be observed when comparing common species such as the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) and the rock pigeon (Columba livia).

In terms of appearance, doves and pigeons share many similar features. They both have feathers that come in various colors and patterns, though some species of pigeons may exhibit more extravagant plumage than doves. For example, the Victoria crowned pigeon (Goura victoria) is known for its beautiful, elongated crest and vibrant blue-gray plumage. However, it is worth noting that not all pigeons possess such striking features.

Behaviorally, doves and pigeons also display some differences. Doves are often associated with a gentle and peaceful demeanor, symbolizing love and harmony in many cultures. They are known for their soft cooing calls and their tendency to form monogamous pairs. On the other hand, pigeons are often perceived as more urban and adaptable birds. They are known for their ability to thrive in urban environments and can be found in cities around the world. Pigeons are also known for their homing instincts and their use in messenger pigeon roles throughout history.

While doves and pigeons share a close evolutionary relationship and many similar features, it is important to recognize that they are distinct species within the Columbidae family. Each species has its own unique characteristics, behaviors, and ecological niches.

To summarize, doves and pigeons are not just fancy versions of one another. They may share common features like round bodies, short necks, and thin beaks, but doves are generally smaller and more delicate in appearance. Additionally, their behaviors and ecological roles can differ, with doves often associated with peace and pigeons being adaptable urban dwellers. It is the diversity within the Columbidae family that makes both doves and pigeons fascinating creatures in their own right.