In common parlance, the term “pigeon” designates all birds of the genus Columba, a genus in which there are 33 different species (according to the classification established in 2012 by the International Ornithological Congress). The wood pigeon, scientific name Columba palumbus, is one of them. This bird is also called a “wood pigeon”.
Difference in appearance between wood pigeon and rock pigeon
The wood pigeon (or wood pigeon) is the largest of the European pigeons, but also the most common. It weighs between 460 and 570 g for a length of 40 to 42 cm. It is recognizable by the white feathers which form two plates on each side of the base of its neck. They sit alongside pink, purple, light green and dark green feathers with iridescent reflections. Its wingspan is between 75 to 80 cm.
In flight, it is also recognizable by the white feathers which form, on the top of each wing, in the middle, a band. When the wings are folded, this line becomes thinner and is located in the front, on each side of the chest. These feathers are only present in adults, the juvenile being generally gray.
The wood pigeon’s bill is purple-pink at the base and yellow at the tip. Males and females have very similar aspects. Only the specialist can notice that the white spots on the neck are more developed in the male, and that his chest is a little more colorful than that of the female.
The rock pigeon is the one we meet so often in our cities and our villages. Wild, it weighs between 238 and 380 g. But overfed individuals can be heavier. It measures between 29 and 37 cm. Its body is stocky and its wings narrow. Its wingspan only stretches 62 to 72 cm. Its plumage is bluish gray, with green and purplish shades on the neck. Its wings have two clearly visible black lines. It is distinguished by white feathers on the rump.
Other differences between wood pigeon and rock pigeon
The wood pigeon feeds on leaves, buds, young shoots, seeds, fruits, but also occasionally on small molluscs and snails. She is able to swallow fairly large plant elements, such as an oak acorn or a cherry. Rock pigeons have a similar diet but concentrate on smaller items. In town, he is satisfied with crumbs and seeds.
The most important difference between the wood pigeon and the rock pigeon lies in the places chosen to nest.
The pigeon chooses trees to build a fairly flat nest about 8 inches in diameter. It is found more and more in the planter of a balcony or on the windowsill, even on the ground, its nest being hidden in dense vegetation. Quite loosely intertwined twigs make it up.
Rock pigeons choose to nest in crevices, crevices like those in cliffs, or in caves. It is content with little for the nest, amassing some wood, some dry roots, some grass and some algae when it is near the sea.
For both species, reproduction begins around February-March and ends 7 months later, which leaves enough time for a couple to have three broods.
In Paris, it is possible to cross three different species of pigeons: the rock pigeon, the wood pigeon and the stock pigeon.
We have already spoken of the first two. The third is the smallest of the three. It is limited to 31 cm and can weigh between 250 to 350 g. It is ultimately easy to confuse the three if you are not careful. But the color of the eyes is the detail that helps the most:
- The iris of the pigeon is pale yellow,
- The iris of the rock pigeon is reddish orange,
- The iris of the stock dove is dark brown.
The stock dove is, of the three, the most discreet because it places itself at the top of roofs and antennas to monitor its territory, and nests in tree cavities.
It is rare that pigeons are left indifferent: some appreciate them while others hate them. Even if you have probably never witnessed a verbalization scene for pigeon feeding, know that the law prohibits it and that the act is punishable by fine from 68 euros. Indeed, the pigeon knows perfectly how to feed itself. By frequenting the cities, he has become omnivorous and does not hesitate to invest the trash cans. By being fed by humans, pigeons become dependent. This favors their regrouping in specific places and, over time, the sanitary conditions in which they live deteriorate (see the file: how to make the pigeons flee?).
The production of droppings can reach 12 kg per year per animal. These are acid droppings that attack the stone that makes up buildings. In addition, dead pigeons, their nests and their feathers can clog water pipes, gutters, etc. 9 dovecotes are therefore maintained in the capital in order to limit the spread of pigeons and their population. However, the number of guests staying there is only 1,000, or around 5% of the total Parisian pigeon population. Other dovecotes will emerge, at the request of the mayors of districts who wish to contribute to the regulation of pigeons.
The pigeon sport
Pigeons no longer really have a role to play in our societies. However, the French army still maintains a military dovecote at Mont Valérien. And there are 12,000 enthusiasts who still practice pigeon racing in France, that is to say the art of raising and making carrier pigeons compete. This practice has even been part of our heritage since 2012, the year it was listed in the inventory of Cultural Heritage French intangible.
The pigeons used are rock pigeons. Contests are held regularly and the winners can be worth a lot of money. In 2013, the champion of a competition was sold for more than 300,000 euros at auction.