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Pigeons ( Columbidae )

Superclass : Jaw mouths (Gnathostomata)
Row : Land vertebrates (Tetrapoda)
Class : Birds (aves)
Order : Pigeon birds
Family : Pigeons
Scientific name of the  order
Latham , 1790
Scientific name of the  family
Illiger , 1811

The pigeons (Columbidae) are a species-rich family of birds . They are the only family of the order of the pigeon birds (Columbiformes). A male pigeon is called Tauberich , Täuberich , Tauber or also Täuber . A female pigeon is sometimes called a hen . The species of the family have a fairly uniform physique with a strong trunk and a relatively small head, which moves back and forth in a characteristic way when running. In most species, the plumage is gray, gray-blue or brown in color. A few species, which mostly belong to the fruit pigeons , have very colorful plumage.

Pigeons feed mainly on vegetable food, which is swallowed whole by most species. Unlike most birds, pigeons do not lift their heads when they drink, but rather soak up the water. The nests of the pigeons are usually very simple structures. The clutch consists of one or two eggs. One of the peculiarities of the pigeon birds is the formation of so-called crop milk , with which the young birds are fed. The nestlings grow up very quickly, in many species they are already fledged after two weeks. The family comprises about 42 genera and more than 300 species , the greatest biodiversity is in the area from South Asia to Australia . There are 29 species in the Palearctic , five of them in Central Europe.


The wood pigeon , like all pigeons suck the water while drinking.

The smallest pigeons are about the size of a lark , the largest species are the size of a domestic chicken . Pigeons are strongly built and usually noticeably small-headed. The beak has a horn sheath only in the distal half . The basal half is covered by a soft, swollen skin close to the base, under which the slit-shaped nostrils are located. The tarsometatarsus is more or less extensively feathered. The featherless part of the tarsometatarsus is mostly covered in front by a series of tabular scales and is otherwise finely marked or more or less bare. The foot is designed as a seat foot and anisodactyl , three toes point forward, one backward.

The cover plumage is quite dense, the feathers have dark areas at the base and sides, and there is no fur down. The plumage of the living bird looks like a wax due to the strong powder formation. The large plumage consists of 11 hand wings , 12 to 18 arm wings and usually 12 to 14 control feathers . The tail is cut straight to strongly wedge-shaped. The sexes usually only differ slightly.

All pigeons have rudimentary appendixes and a large, two-part goiter . This not only stores food, but also produces the so-called crop milk for feeding the nestlings. This goiter milk is created by the continuous formation and detachment of epithelial cells in the goiter. The extremely nutritious liquid is produced by both sexes. In domestic pigeons , it is made up of 64 to 82% water, 7 to 13% of fat and fat-like substances, 10 to 19% of protein , and 1.6% of minerals and active ingredients such as vitamin A and B complexes together.

distribution and habitat

With the exception of the Arctic and Antarctic, the family occurs almost worldwide. The greatest diversity of forms is found from South Asia to Australia , New Guinea is considered the region with the greatest diversity in terms of body size and occupied ecological niche . There are 29 species in the Palearctic , five of them in Central Europe ( wood pigeon , stock dove , turkish dove , turtle dove and city ​​dove ).

Pigeons use a variety of different habitats. A large number of the species inhabit forests, both in the plains and in the mountains. A few species colonize rocky areas or occur on the edge of deserts and dry steppes. Some species are downright habitat specialists. The red-headed and white- headed pigeons are found exclusively in rugged and rocky areas in northern Australia. The snow pigeon, which belongs to the field pigeons, breeds in the Himalayas at altitudes between 4,000 and 6,000 meters and sometimes undertakes vertical migrations of more than 2,000 meters in altitude to look for food. The white-capped pigeon , which is widespread in the Caribbean, even needs two very different habitats during the breeding season. It breeds in mangrove areas that are isolated off the coast. There the nests are protected from predators such as raccoons . On the other hand, it looks for its food in evergreen hardwood forests.


Most species feed almost exclusively on plants. Unlike many other seed-eating birds, pigeons are unable to shell seeds or grains with their beak. They therefore ingest seeds, fruits, berries and also small invertebrates whole and swallow them. The feet are also very rarely used when eating. An exception to this is the tooth pigeon , which with its powerful beak is able to bite even larger seeds. Few observations have been made about this species. Presumably she uses her feet to hold on to larger pieces of food.


Courtship-feeding Sclaters Red-breasted Crowned Pigeons ( Goura sclaterii )
A crested pigeons males balzt with fanned tail and wings splayed over a female

The nests are usually quite small platforms made of branches, but more rarely they are brooded in finished caves in trees, rocks or in the ground. Some Australian species breed frequently on the ground. In the case of nest-building species, the female is mainly responsible for building; the male, however, hands over the twigs and twigs used to build them. The clutches only contain one or two elliptical, single-colored eggs. In most species the eggs are pure white; cream-colored or pale yellow-brown eggs are only found in some breeding species close to the ground. The boys are Nesthocker , they are naked or in slip roughly furry bedaunt. In the first days of life, they are fed exclusively with crop milk, which they receive by sticking their beak into the mouths of the adult birds.

Endangered pigeon species

The species of pigeon that are particularly endangered include many that are endemic to small island territories . Changes in their habitat due to human intervention and the introduction of competing species or species that are predators of the pigeons contribute to the decline in populations. Pink , Socorro , Grenada and Cuba earth pigeons are examples of island species in which, in addition to the fragmentation of their habitat through clearing and conversion into agricultural land, introduced predators such as feral domestic cats , rats , possums and mongooses have contributed to the decline in populations. In the Tahitian fruit pigeon , a major cause of the population decline that has led to the likely extinction on Moorea and Tahiti has been the settlement of marsh harriers . The remains of this species on Makatea Island are threatened by a resumption of mining there. In the case of the Mindoro and Negros dagger-pigeon as well as the Marquesa pigeon, hunting is seen as a major factor in the decline in populations in addition to the loss of habitat. Geoffroy's pigeon , on the other hand, which is very threatened, occurs on the South American continent. This species is a food specialist that mainly lives on the seeds of two types of bamboo. Extensive deforestation has fragmented the habitat of this species to such an extent that the IUCN considers it possible that this species can no longer be saved from extinction.

One of the essential protective measures is placing important habitats under protection. For some species, human-owned breeding plays an essential role in species conservation. So the Socorrotaube has been wiped out in its homeland. Worldwide, however, there are still around 300 individuals that are bred with the aim of resettling them on Socorro , if the conditions are created there that make such a resettlement promising. The procedure was similar for the pink pigeon native to Mauritius , which has been successfully reintroduced for years.


The Columbidae is the only family of the order of the pigeon birds (Columbiformes) with about 42 genera and more than 300 species . The flightless species Dodo and Rodrigues solitaire from the Mascarene Islands, which were eradicated in the 18th century, are also included in this family, according to recent findings. The list of genera given here and the numbers of species follow the IOC World Bird List.

Paradise fruit pigeon ( Alectroenas pulcherrima )
Maiden pigeon ( Alopecoenas xanthonurus )
  • Aplopelia - 1 kind
Collar dove ( Caleonas nicobarica )
  • Collared pigeons ( Caloenas ) - 1 item
Olive pigeon ( Columba arquatrix )
City pigeon ( Columba livia f. Domestica )
Guinea pigeon ( Columba guinea )
Wood pigeon ( Columba palumbus )
Rust pigeon ( Columbina talpacoti )
  • Spotted belly fruit pigeons ( Cryptophaps ) - 1 item
  • Toothed pigeons ( Didunculus ) - 1 item
Split-winged pigeon ( Drepanoptila holosericea )
  • Split-winged pigeons ( Drepanoptila ) - 1 item
Two-colored fruit pigeon ( Ducula bicolor )
Black-collar fruit pigeon ( Ducula mullerii )
Red-tailed fruit pigeon ( Ducula rufigaster )
  • Wandering pigeons ( Ectopistes ) - 1 item
Hop pigeon ( Gallicolumba tristigmata )
Diamond dove ( Geopelia cuneata )
Mustache pigeon ( Geotrygon mystacea )
Sclater's red-breasted crowned pigeon ( Goura sclaterii )
  • Maori fruit pigeons ( Hemiphaga ) - 1 item
Wonga Pigeon ( Leucosarcia melanoleuca )
  • Wong pigeons ( Leucosarcia ) - 1 type
White-forehead dove ( Leptotila verreauxi )
  • Hooded fruit pigeons ( Lopholaimus ) - 1 item
    • Crested pigeon ( Lopholaimus antarcticus )
Pink-breasted Cuckoo Dove ( Macropygia amboinensis )
Spectacled doves ( Metriopelia ceciliae )
  • Microgoura - 1 type
    • Solomon pigeon ( Microgoura meeki ) †
Crested pigeon ( Ocyphaps lophotes )
  • Pointed pigeons ( Ocyphaps ) - 1 kind
  • Cape pigeon ( Oena ) - 1 item
  • Pheasant pigeons ( Otidiphaps ) - 1 kind
Red-billed pigeon ( Patagioenas flavirostris )
Salvin Pigeon ( Patagioenas oenops )

Bronze-winged pigeon ( Phaps chalcoptera )
Black-necked fruit pigeon ( Ptilinopus melanospilus )
Red-necked Downy Pigeon ( Ptilinopus porphyreus )
Beautiful Downy Pigeon ( Ptilinopus pulchellus )
  • Raphus - 1 item
    • Dodo ( Raphus cucculatus ) †
Red-brown Reinwardttaube ( Reinwardtoena reinwardtii )
  • Cuban pigeons ( Starnoenas ) - 1 type
Cape pigeon ( Streptopelia capicola )
Gray-fronted pompadour pigeon ( Treron affinis )
Bind Grüntaube ( Treron bicincta )
Bare-faced green pigeon ( Treron calva )
  • Thick-billed earth pigeons ( Trugon ) - 1 item
Manadotaube ( Turacoena manadensis )
  • Campo dust ( uropelia ) - 1 item
Coastal pigeon ( Zenaida aurita )


Stone tablet with dove and olive branch , Catacombs of Domitilla , Rome

Because ancient science assumed that the dove has no gall bladder and is therefore free from all bitter and evil, they are considered a symbol of peace ( dove of peace ) , also of innocence, love (see turtledove ), loyalty (see wedding dove , release dove ) and motherhood, the soul and Christian interpreted the Holy Spirit as well as on coats of arms . The symbolism can be found in numerous cultures. In the context of mourning or the burial of a deceased, the white dove stands above all for the freedom that a soul receives after death and after leaving the human body.



Historical illustrations


  • Bruce M. Beehler , Thane K. Pratt: Birds of New Guinea; Distribution, Taxonomy, and Systematics. Princeton University Press, Princeton 2016, ISBN 978-0-691-16424-3 .
  • Urs N. Glutz v. Blotzheim and Kurt M. Bauer: Handbook of the birds of Central Europe. Vol. 9th, 2nd edition, AULA-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1994, pp. 9-11. ISBN 3-89104-562-X .
  • David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes and John Cox: Pigeons and Doves - A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Pica Press, Sussex 2001, ISBN 90-74345-26-3 .
  • Alois Münst, Josef Wolters: Pigeons - The types of wild pigeons. 2nd expanded and revised edition, Verlag Karin Wolters, Bottrop 1999, ISBN 3-9801504-9-6 .
  • Gerhard Rösler: The wild pigeons of the earth - free living, keeping and breeding. M. & H. Schaper Verlag, Alfeld-Hannover 1996, ISBN 3-7944-0184-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Taube  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : pigeons  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: dove  - quotes
Wikisource: Pigeons  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Tauberich | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. Retrieved July 23, 2020 .
  2. pigeon | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. In: Duden. Retrieved July 22, 2018 .
  3. Tauber | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. In: Duden. Retrieved July 22, 2018 .
  4. Duden | Cocks | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. Retrieved December 19, 2019 .
  5. Duden | Hen | Spelling, meaning, definition, origin. Retrieved December 20, 2019 .
  6. ^ Beehler & Pratt: Birds of New Guinea , p. 63.
  7. Rösler, p. 19
  8. ^ Gibbs, p. 213
  9. Rösler, p. 25
  10. Rösler, p. 318
  11. C. Blanvillain et al. a .: Impact of introduced birds on the recovery of the Tahiti Flycatcher ( Pomarea nigra ), a critically endangered forest bird of Tahiti. In: Biological Conservation 109, No. 2, February 2003. pp. 197-205.
  12. Neil Hetherington: Species Profile: Australasian Harrier ( Memento of the original from May 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.canterburynature.org archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. www.canterburynature.org. September 2006. Accessed December 3, 2016.
  13. Rösler, p. 21.
  14. BirdLife Factsheet accessed June 16, 2009
  15. Rösler, p. 23
  16. ^ Columbidae on the IOC World Bird List, Version 6.4. accessed November 27, 2016
  17. a b Banks, Weckstein, Remsen & Johnson: Classification of a clade of New World doves (Columbidae: Zenaidini) . Zootaxa 3669 (2): 184-188 doi: 10.11646 / zootaxa.3669.2.11
  18. ^ A b Charles Victor Daremberg and Friedrich Anton Reuss (1810–1868). S. Hildegardis Abbatissae Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Creaturarum Libri Novem. Physica , Book VI (De avibus), Chapter 30: Columba . Chapter 31: Turtur . Migne, Paris 1855. Col. 1299 (digitized) . Translation: Marie-Louise-Portmann, Basel 1991: From the dove. The pigeon is more cold than warm and loves the morning of the day, that is, its first beginning, which is moderately cold, more than the warmth. And it is simple-minded and timid, and therefore it flies in a flock, so that it is less harmed by other birds. And because she is cold, she is easily hungry. And the food in it does not get as warm as in other birds, and therefore it is quickly hungry and it eats more than another bird of its size. And its flesh is not firm, but rather dry, and it does not give a person much juice, and it does not serve a healthy person much for food, even if it does not harm him. It harms the sick person who is weak in the body when he has eaten it. But the wood pigeon and the wood pigeon also have the same nature, except that they are in the woods, and therefore they are a bit bitter and larger, and that they eat the forage of the woods. But neither these nor those are useful as remedies. --- From the turtledove. The turtledove is warm and dry, and of manly strength, and it is not timid, and it always has a servant, so to speak. And because it does not have moisture and does not change its way of life in different (directions), bile cannot grow in it, as is the case in humans. In those who have good will, the bile cannot grow, but it decreases in them. And when he has a criminal mind, the bile increases in him. And the meat of the turtledove is unsuitable for eating because it causes gout in humans. The rest is no good.
  19. ^ Margret Nussbaum: dove, fire, wind. In: Katholisch.de. May 14, 2016, accessed June 4, 2020 (German).
  20. Pedanios Dioscurides . 1st century: De Medicinali Materia libri quinque. Translation. Julius Berendes . Pedanius Dioscurides' medicine theory in 5 books. Enke, Stuttgart 1902, pp. 191–192 (Book II, Chapter 97): blood from pigeons (digital copy) ; (Book II, Chapter 98): Pigeon droppings (digitized version)
  21. Pliny the Elder , 1st century: Naturalis historia book X, chapters 52–53 (§ 104–110): Palumbes (digitized version ) ; Translation Külb 1855 (digitized version )
  22. Galen , 2nd century, De simplicium medicamentorum temperamentis ac facultatibus , Book X, Chapter II / 3 (based on the edition Kühn 1826, Volume XII, p. 256): De sanguine columbae (digital copy ) Book X, Chapter II / 25 (based on the Kühn 1826 edition, Volume XII, p. 302): De stercare columbino (digitized version )
  23. Pressure: Sexti Placiti Papyriensis, de medicamentis ex animalibus, libellus. Chapter 30: De columba Johann Petri, Nuremberg 1538. (digitized version )
  24. Avicenna , 11th century: Canon of Medicine . Translation and adaptation by Gerhard von Cremona , Arnaldus de Villanova and Andrea Alpago (1450–1521). Basel 1556, Volume II, Chapter 132: Columba (digitized version)
  25. ^ Konrad von Megenberg , 14th century: Book of nature. Output. Franz Pfeiffer . Aue, Stuttgart 1861, p. 179 (IIIb / 22): Pigeons (digitized)
  26. Herbarius Moguntinus , Mainz 1484, Part II, Chapter 81: Columba (digitized version)
  27. Gart der Gesundheit . Mainz 1485, Chapter 144: Columba (digitized version)
  28. Hortus sanitatis 1491, Mainz 1491, Part III (De avibus), Chapter 32: Columba (digitized version)
  29. Pressure: Sexti Placiti Papyriensis, de medicamentis ex animalibus, libellus. Johann Petri, Nuremberg 1538. (digitized version )
  30. Puli Columbini . In: Abdul ibn Butlan : Tacuinum sanitatis in medicina. 14th century, Codex Vindobon. Ser. Nova 2644, sheet 26v. Transcription and translation of the text by Franz Unterkircher: Tacuinum sanitatis ... Graz 2004, p. 104: Puli columbini. Columhini sweater: complexio calida et humida. Electio: acquirentes iam sibi cibum. iuvamentum: conferunt paralixi ex frigiditate. nocumentum: nocent cerebro et uigilijs, maxime assati. Remotio nocumenti: cum aceto et coriandro. Quid generant: sanguinem calidum fortis caliditatis. conveniunt magis frigidis, decrepitis et humidis, hyeme et regionibus niuosis. --- Young pigeons. Young pigeons: warm and moist complexion. It is preferable to those who are already looking for their own food. Benefit: good against strokes caused by cold. Harm: they harm the brain and cause insomnia, especially when fried. Preventing the harm: with vinegar and coriander. What they produce: warm blood of intense heat. Particularly beneficial for people with a cold complexion, the weak and those with a damp complexion, in winter and in snowy areas.
  31. Turtures . In: Abdul ibn Butlan : Tacuinum sanitatis in medicina. 14th century, Codex Vindobon. Ser. Nova 2644, sheet 26v. Transcription and translation of the text by Franz Unterkircher: Tacuinum sanitatis ... Graz 2004, p. 106: Turtures. Turtures: complexio calida et humida in 2 °, minoris tamen humiditatis quam pulli columbini. Electio: iuvenes, cum volare incipere debent. iuvamentum: egritudinibus nervorum frixe et assate. cum cera intromissa conferunt fluxui ventris. Nocumentum: sunt famosi nutrimenti, non tantum tamen ut columbi. Remotio nocumenti: cum aceto et coriandro. Quid generant: sanguinem calidum et acutum. conveniunt magis frigidis humidis, decrepitis, hyeme et niuosis regionibus. --- lovebirds. Lovebirds: Complexion: warm and humid in the 2nd degree, but less moisture than young pigeons. Preferable: young people who are just beginning to fly. Benefit: if they are roasted and fried, against nervous diseases, with the addition of wax they are good against the flow of the abdomen. Damage: they have known good nutrients, but not as much as the pigeons. Preventing the harm: with vinegar and coriander. What they produce: warm and sharp blood. Particularly beneficial for people with cold and damp complexion, for the weak, in winter and in snowy areas.