Pigeon toes and the feral rock doves that live at the pier


Are pigeons pigeon-toed?


I suppose by definition, yes?


Geek out to the variety of toe arrangements (dactyly) in birds. Pigeons are anisodactyl, like most “perching” birds aka passerines.


Here’s an interesting pigeon toe. It’s got a white nail.


And one white nail on the other foot too.

Does this bird have an all-white great-grandparent? A ceremonial release dove or homing/ racing pigeon that did not go home?


Many pigeons I see regularly on the pier at Indian RiverSide Park have some color variations beyond the blue barred pattern of plain old Columba livia, the rock dove (rock pigeon, common pigeon). Maybe they are descendants of some escaped or released domestic birds?

Hm, technically all pigeons in North America are feral…

The pigeons or rock doves (Columba livia) found in North America are the feral offspring of pigeons brought to this continent by European immigrants. Pigeons are domesticated animals raised for sport racing, show and for food (squab). The ancestors of the pigeons we see in our cities and on our farms escaped from captivity and found a favorable environment living with humans. Feral pigeons now have a cosmopolitan distribution, having become established every place humans have built cities.

The feral pigeons found in Florida and North America are extremely variable in coloration. They exhibit the full range of coloration that domestication and selective breeding have produced. All pigeons that were developed from rock doves (Figure 1) have a white rump, usually a white diamond-shaped patch just above the tail feathers. In white birds the white rump blends with the general body color. Many pigeons have retained the ancestral rock dove coloration: gray body, darker gray head and neck, white rump, dark band on the end of the tail, dark wing tips, and two black stripes running along the back edge of each wing.

The dove digests

mourning dove

Mourning dove in a tree at the edge of our yard.

Mourning doves eat almost exclusively seeds, which make up more than 99% of their diet. Rarely, they will eat snails or insects. Mourning doves generally eat enough to fill their crops and then fly away to digest while resting. They often swallow grit such as fine gravel or sand to assist with digestion. The species usually forages on the ground, walking but not hopping. At bird feeders, mourning doves are attracted to one of the largest ranges of seed types of any North American bird, with a preference for canola, corn, millet, safflower, and sunflower seeds. Mourning doves do not dig or scratch for seeds, instead eating what is readily visible.

mourning dove

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is a member of the dove family (Columbidae). The bird is also called the turtle dove or the American mourning dove or rain dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina pigeon or Carolina turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph).

mourning dove

The mourning dove is a related species to the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), which was hunted to extinction in the early 1900s. For this reason, the possibility of using mourning doves for cloning the passenger pigeon has been discussed.

Millais Return of the Dove to the Ark

The Return of the Dove to the Ark, 1851, John Everett Millais

Zen bird

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves look like they are wearing blue eye shadow.

Zenaida macroura are members of the Columbidae, or dove, family. I think they are a very pretty gray-brown color. I would paint a room – maybe a study – in “Mourning Dove.”

mourning dove

A photo I took in February.

I feel calm when I look at a calm dove.

They like sunflower seeds, millet and corn. They like to feed on the ground, but sometimes I see them relaxing in the tray of the tube feeder, nibbling a seed or two, or just staring off into space.

They get along with my chickens. Last night I watched two feeding with a fat brown rabbit under the pole feeder. They stuff their crops (just like chickens) then go roost and digest their meals.

Child With a Dove Picasso

Child With a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

Henri Matisse sketching a dove. Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Dove in Rhodes

I took this photo of a dove a couple of years ago in Rhodes, Greece.