Pigeon vs Dove – What is the difference?

Pigeon vs Dove

Most people consider pigeons and doves to be two different species of birds that are differentiated by color, location, or their appearance. Some differentiate them based on their size. For instance, doves are generally considered to be smaller than pigeons. But it is important to note that these classifications don’t always hold. So what are the actual differences between a pigeon and dove? Or are there any such differences?

So, what are the differences between dove and pigeon? There isn’t any scientific or taxonomic difference between pigeons and doves. Both of them belong to the family of birds known as the ‘Columbidae.’ The difference between the two is more of a linguistic difference than scientific or taxonomic. Colloquial English tends to categorize them based on their size and color. Doves are generally considered to be smaller than pigeons and are white.

Owing to the lack of any scientific or taxonomic difference in classifying doves and pigeons, most of the distinctions that are followed are not consistent.

For instance, the common pigeons that are seen in cities of the UK, the ‘Columbia Livia Domestica’ is the same species as the ‘Rock Dove’ that are found in Western and Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

In this article, we will have an in-depth analysis of a dove and pigeon and see whether there are any differences between them or not.


Are doves and pigeons the same?


As said earlier, there aren’t any scientific or taxonomic difference between a pigeon and a dove. Instead, it is more of a linguistic variation, and there isn’t any notable difference between the two.

The wood pigeon is a French word derived from the Latin word “Pipo,” whereas, the dove is a Germanic word.

The classification of the birds in the Columbidae family into doves and pigeons is arbitrary and is based on their color and size. For instance, those birds in the Columbidae family that are white and small are called doves, whereas pigeons are those common street birds that can be found in grey, blue, brown colors but not in white.

Due to the linguistic variations in naming them, there aren’t any consistent differences between the two. For instance, the common pigeon (The feral pigeon) seen in the streets is called rock pigeon in some areas and as rock doves in some other places.

It is just that people choose to follow their methods of classification when it comes to these birds. So it doesn’t matter whether you call them pigeons or doves, they are all the same.

For simplicity, most people would avoid being too scientific when it comes to doves and pigeons, which is why most people would conjure up a picture of a white pigeon if you use the word dove.


Are all white pigeons doves?

white pigeon

As said earlier, the classification of the Columbidae family of birds into pigeons and doves are solely based on linguistic differences.

It is important to understand that the word dove does not attribute only to the white birds. In fact, most of the birds that are called doves aren’t pure white. Instead, they are Ringneck Doves, which comes in different colors.

The all-white pigeons which most people colloquially call a Dove are the Domestic Rock Dove, also known as the Release Dove.

It is important to note that the white-colored feathers of these birds are due to Albinism or other genetic anomalies. These doves are specifically domesticated and bred for their unique white color and shape.

It is interesting to note that these all-white pigeons are rarely found in the wild because all-white coloration increases their vulnerability. This explains why the Ringneck Doves that are found in the wild have a light brown coloration. Owing to which they can better camouflage themselves.

Unlike the better-camouflaged Ringneck Doves, the Domestic Rock Dove can barely survive on their own. Being domesticated throughout their lifetime, they can’t survive in the wild, and the chances are that they would be preyed upon within minutes.

What does releasing a dove symbolize?

For centuries doves have been considered to be a symbol of love, peace, freedom & hope. Therefore, releasing doves during various occasions has become a religious practice. Depending upon the occasion, a dove release can have different meanings.

Releasing doves at a wedding

Doves for ages have been considered the symbol of an everlasting love owing to their monogamous nature. Releasing a dove at a wedding symbolizes the perfect bond made in matrimony.

The newly married couples releasing a pair of doves are said to symbolize their union as they begin their journey together.

At some weddings, guests are also seen releasing white doves, expressing their good thoughts and wishes for the couple.

Releasing doves at funerals

Not just folklores and literary works, Doves have also been a part of religious beliefs. In the Christian belief system, doves are associated with the holy spirit. Therefore, releasing doves at funerals is more like a religious ritual.

At funerals, dove release is the final service which at times is followed by a poem about the departed. Depending on the number of doves released, it can have different meanings.

  • Releasing two doves at the end of funeral service symbolizes the departed soul being guided by the holy spirit.
  • Releasing three doves followed by a single dove symbolizes the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit guiding the departed soul.
  • Releasing one dove followed by several doves signifies the departed soul being taken to heaven by the angels.


What happens to the released doves?

Well, it entirely depends on what kind of dove is released. If you were to release the Real doves (the white-colored Ringneck doves), which are domesticated birds, they aren’t going to survive long.

These birds have been domesticated for ages, and they hardly possess any instincts. Due to which, when released, these birds would either be preyed upon by predators or would starve to death.

Though most dove releasing companies advertise that their birds would safely find their way back home, it isn’t always true. These white Ringneck doves are bred only for dove release services and cannot navigate their way back like a homing pigeon. Owing to which in many cases, these birds can be seen lying injured or dead near the release sights.

This is why you need to make sure that the release companies are using homing pigeons and not the white Ringneck doves.

These homing pigeons are mostly the Rock doves that are better equipped to survive on their own. When released, they can find their way back home from as far as 600 miles.

The homing pigeons, once released, can be seen circling the release sites to get the bearings. Once they identify the bearings, they head back home.

Even if they are not able to find their way back home, the Rock doves have better chances of survival than the others.


What does seeing a white dove mean?

As said earlier, doves have been an integral part of literature, folklores, and any religious texts. Different cultures have different interpretations of spotting a white dove. But one thing which is consistent across cultures is that they all say spotting a white dove is not a mere coincidence.

Doves are often associated with divinity and are said to symbolize purity, love, peace, trust, redemption, faith, honesty, long-life, soul, innocence, and dedication. Due to which the meaning of spotting a dove may vary from person to person.


Doves and Pigeons as pets

Doves and Pigeons make adorable and perfect pets, especially for novices. They are low maintenance pets and gentle beings. The only thing that you need to be worried about is that they love sitting on your shoulders and heads and play.

What makes them the perfect pets to have is that they are intelligent than the other pet birds. If taken care of with care and affection, they would never leave your side and would always want you to pet them. Also, they are gentle birds and seldom get aggressive. The worst they can do is to scratch you.

The only prerequisite to bringing home doves and pets is that you should get giant birdcage and bird feeders. It should be sufficiently big enough for the birds to stretch their wings.

You should also ensure that the birds have adequate access to clean water. Once the birds have become comfortable and begin trusting you, you can let the cage open. They wouldn’t leave far from the premises, and even if they do, they will come back when you feed them.


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