Difference between pigeons and doves

The Distinctive Differences Between Pigeons and Doves

Bird enthusiasts and casual observers alike often use the terms “pigeon” and “dove” interchangeably, creating a common misconception that these avian species are one and the same. However, although they belong to the same family—Columbidae—pigeons and doves exhibit distinct differences in various aspects, including size, body shape, appearance, flight patterns, life cycles, behaviours, diets, and habitats. There are many types of pigeons, so let’s delve into these distinctions to appreciate the uniqueness of each bird.

Size and Body Shape

Pigeons: Pigeons tend to be more robust and larger in stature compared to doves. They possess a stout body with broad shoulders and a relatively short neck. Their overall massiveness is evident in their larger wingspan and stronger build, which aids them in navigating urban landscapes.

Doves: Doves, on the other hand, are generally more diminutive and graceful. They exhibit a slender body adorned with elongated tails and delicate necks. Their streamlined physique contributes to their nimble and agile flight, making them appear more refined and elegant.


Pigeons: Pigeons boast a spectrum of plumage colours ranging from iridescent greens and purples to more subdued greys and browns. Their feathers often have a metallic sheen, particularly in sunlight, adding a layer of visual complexity. This shimmering effect can make them quite captivating to watch.

Doves: Doves are typically characterised by softer, pastel hues such as creamy whites, gentle grays, and light browns. Their plumage often lacks the glossy finish seen in pigeons, presenting a more matte and understated aesthetic. This simplicity imparts a serene and peaceful aura to these birds.


Pigeons: Pigeons are known for their powerful and direct flight. Their robust wing muscles enable them to cover vast distances and reach considerable heights. This characteristic makes them adept at rapid, sustained flight, often seen in their homing behaviour.

Doves: Doves exhibit a more buoyant and fluttery flight pattern. Their wingbeats are quick and produce a distinctive whistling sound, especially noticeable during take-off. Doves prefer shorter flights, often staying close to their nesting grounds. This difference in flight style adds a touch of elegance to their movements.

Life Cycle

Pigeons: Pigeon pairs bond for life and exhibit strong parental instincts. They typically lay two eggs per clutch, with both parents sharing incubation duties. Pigeon squabs (chicks) are altricial, meaning they hatch naked and helpless, requiring significant parental care. This extensive nurturing period fosters a deep familial bond.

Doves: Similar to pigeons, doves also form monogamous pairs. They usually lay two eggs as well, but their nesting strategy can be more precarious, often choosing less protected sites. Dove chicks also require parental care but tend to fledge slightly faster than pigeon squabs. This faster development can sometimes be an advantage in the wild.


Pigeons: Pigeons display highly social behaviours, often forming large flocks. They exhibit remarkable problem-solving abilities and have adapted well to urban environments. Their cooing calls serve as communication tools within their colonies. Observing a flock of pigeons can reveal complex social interactions.

Doves: Doves are generally more solitary or found in smaller groups. Their behaviour is gentler and less assertive compared to pigeons. Doves’ calls are softer and more melodic, contributing to their serene presence in natural settings. Their tranquility is often soothing to human observers.


Pigeons: Pigeons have a varied diet that includes seeds, fruits, and human food scraps. Their adaptability allows them to thrive in cities, where they scavenge for sustenance. They have a unique digestive system capable of processing diverse food sources. This omnivorous diet makes them resilient survivors.

Doves: Doves primarily consume seeds and grains, making them granivorous. They prefer natural foraging and are less inclined to seek out human food. Their diet is simpler, consisting mostly of small seeds and occasionally insects. This preference for natural foods keeps them closer to rural areas.


Pigeons: Pigeons are ubiquitous in urban environments, often nesting on buildings, bridges, and other man-made structures. Their adaptability to city life is unparalleled, allowing them to flourish alongside human populations. Seeing pigeons in bustling metropolitan areas is a testament to their resilience.

Doves: Doves favour more tranquil and natural habitats such as woodlands, gardens, and rural areas. They are often found in regions with ample vegetation, where they can forage peacefully and nest in less disturbed locales. Their preference for serene environments makes dove sightings a calming experience.

Know the Differences

While pigeons and doves share a familial connection, their differences are pronounced across various facets, from physical characteristics to behavioural tendencies. By understanding these distinctions, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity within the Columbidae family, recognising the unique roles each bird plays in our ecosystem. Whether observing the resilient pigeon in bustling cities or the graceful dove in serene gardens, each species offers a unique glimpse into the avian world.

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