Dove vs. Pigeon: 10 Key Differences You Need to Know

Dove vs pigeon up close

Are you among those who often wonder whether doves are pigeons or vice versa? To give you a head start, they are not the same, although they have a lot of similarities.

Doves and pigeons are two closely related avian species. Although both are small to medium-sized birds, pigeons are slightly bigger and have wider wingspans than doves. Besides physical differences, these two birds also differ in their habitat preferences, diet, behavior, calls, and associated symbolisms.

In this article, we will discuss everything about doves versus pigeons. We will also answer some of the frequently asked questions, so keep scrolling until you reach the bottom of this page!

Summary of Dove vs. Pigeon

Dove isolated on white backgroundPigeon isolated on white background
Worldwide, but most common in warm climates
Worldwide, but most common in urban areas
Body & Shape:
Smaller and delicate, with a sleek body, smaller head, and slender neck
Body & Shape:
Larger and robust, with a plump body, bigger head, and thick neck
9.1–13.4 in (23–34 cm)
11–14 in (28–35.5 cm)
3.4–6 oz (96–170 g)
9–13 oz (255–368 g)
14.5–17.5 in (37–44.5 cm)
20–26 in (51–66 cm)
Short, rounded tail
Long, pointed tail
40–55 mph
77–93 mph
1–1 ½ years
3–6 years
Gentle, docile birds
More aggressive than doves but still relatively docile
Hawks, owls, cats, dogs, snakes
Same as doves, plus humans

10 Differences Between Pigeons and Doves

1. Appearance

Dove and pigeon appearance


Doves have a distinct and delicate appearance. They are smaller than their pigeon counterparts, with sleek bodies, smaller heads, slender necks, and short, rounded tails.

Dove feathers are soft and smooth, giving them a velvety texture. Though there is the notion that all doves are white, their coloration varies among different species. They often exhibit shades of gray, brown, and white.


Pigeons have a robust and larger appearance compared to their dove relatives. They have a plump body with a sturdy build. Their heads are relatively bigger, and their tails are long and pointed.

Similar to doves, there are different types of pigeons, and they come in various colors and patterns, including gray, brown, and white.

2. Size and Weight

White dove perched on a branch


Doves are relatively small birds, measuring between 9.1 and 13.4 inches in size. They have a compact and slender body structure, making them lightweight. The average weight of a dove ranges from 3.4 to 6 ounces.

Despite their small size, doves possess a moderate wingspan spanning 14.5 to 17.5 inches. Their wings are proportionate to their body size, allowing for agile flight and maneuverability.


Pigeons are larger than doves, with lengths ranging from 11 to 14 inches. Their larger size results in a heavier weight, averaging 9 to 13 ounces on average. Additionally, pigeons’ wingspan, which ranges from 20 to 26 inches, is wider.

Given their larger size, weight, and wingspan, pigeons will be stronger and more stable when flying than doves.

3. Speed

Pigeon flying fast


Doves are renowned for their amazing speed and agility in flight. Compared to many other bird species, these birds can fly at speeds between 40 and 55 miles per hour (mph).

They can travel at such high speeds thanks to their enormous wings and streamlined bodies.


Although doves fly fast, pigeons still outpace them significantly. These birds can fly at astounding rates, between 77 and 93 miles per hour (mph).

Pigeons’ extraordinary speed contributes to their capacity to make extensive migrations, locate food sources, and return to their roosting locations faster.

4. Lifespan

A pair of doves resting


The lifespan of a dove is relatively short compared to many other bird species, such as doves. On average, doves have a lifespan of around 1 to 1 ½ years.

However, this lifespan can vary depending on factors such as habitat, predation, disease, and the availability of food and water.

Although individual doves may not live for many years, their populations remain stable due to their reproductive capabilities.


A pigeon’s lifespan is generally longer than a dove’s. On average, their lifespan ranges from 3 to 6 years.

Pigeons tend to have a longer life expectancy due to various factors, such as their adaptability, robust nature, and ability to thrive in different environments.

5. Calls

Pigeon about to make calls


Dove calls are renowned for their gentle, melodic character. A dove’s most well-known call is the traditional “coo-coooo” or “coo-roo-coo” noise. This call is often made in a rhythmic pattern multiple times.

Doves’ cooing call serves a variety of functions. It is mostly utilized for inter-dove communication, particularly during courtship and breeding.


The call of a pigeon shares some similarities with that of a dove. They also produce soft cooing sounds, often described as a rhythmic “coo-coo-coo.” However, pigeon calls can be deeper and more resonant compared to doves.

Furthermore, pigeons may produce additional vocalizations, such as croaking or whistling sounds, during courtship or when alarmed.

Take a look at this video to see how a pigeon coos:

Close up of wood pigeon cooing 23.04.19

6. Temperament and Behavior

Dove perched on a tree stump


Doves are gentle and docile birds known for their peaceful nature. They establish strong couple relationships and show loyalty and dedication to their partners.

Doves are non-territorial and cooperative. They coexist peacefully with other species and share resources without conflict.

With their calm demeanor and harmonious interactions, doves bring a sense of serenity wherever they are found.


Pigeons, like doves, are generally docile but can display more assertive behavior. They are adaptable, intelligent, and known for forming large flocks.

While pigeons can be more aggressive than doves, especially when defending territory or competing for food, they generally maintain a calm demeanor.

Pigeons are quite tolerant of humans, which makes them suitable for urban areas all around the world. They forage and roost collectively, show social behavior, and have outstanding homing skills.

Further, I recently encountered a study by the University of Iowa highlighting the intelligence of pigeons. It underscored the similarity of a pigeon’s learning style with that of artificial intelligence or what is known as associative learning.

It is interesting to know that pigeons are able to use the process of trial and error to memorize scenarios with 70% accuracy. This makes them highly trainable.

7. Habitat and Location

Pigeon looking for a place to rest


Doves are widely distributed worldwide but are most commonly found in warm climates. They inhabit various habitats, including forests, woodlands, grasslands, and urban areas.

Doves adapt well to human-altered environments, often seen in parks, gardens, and agricultural areas.

Regarding geographical range, doves are found on every continent except Antarctica. Different dove species have specific preferences for their habitats.


Pigeons are globally distributed as well. However, they are most commonly found in urban areas, where they have adapted well to human-altered environments.

Urban settings provide them with abundant food sources and suitable roosting and nesting sites on buildings.

Although primarily associated with cities, pigeons can also be found in suburban areas near farms and agricultural structures.

8. Diet and Predators

A group of doves eating


Doves rely mostly on plant-based sources for nourishment. They eat a range of seeds, grains, fruits, and plants as part of their vegetarian diet.

They are ground feeders and can often be seen pecking at the ground in search of food.

In terms of predators, doves face threats from a range of animals. Hawks and owls are among the aerial predators that pose a risk to doves.

Additionally, terrestrial predators such as cats and dogs may threaten doves. Snakes are another predator that can also be dangerous to doves, particularly when nests are located at low heights.


Pigeons have an omnivorous diet. They feed on various grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetation, but they can also scavenge for scraps in urban environments.

Like doves, pigeons face a range of predators in their natural environment. This also includes aerial and terrestrial predators.

Unsurprisingly, humans are also seen as pigeons’ natural predators. Human activities such as hunting, trapping, and poisoning negatively impact pigeon populations.

9. Nest and Eggs

Pigeon leaving its nest


Doves typically build their nests in trees, shrubs, or ground. Their nests are relatively simple, often constructed using twigs and grasses, forming a loose platform.

Doves usually lay one or two eggs, usually white and slightly smaller than pigeon eggs. Both male and female doves take turns incubating the eggs for 14 to 18 days.


Like doves, pigeons create nests in various places, such as trees, structures, and ledges. Their nests are typically constructed using twigs, leaves, and other materials, forming a sturdy and well-organized structure.

During my younger years, I had the opportunity to take care of pigeons on my uncle’s farm. These pigeons lay one or two eggs at a time, which are usually white and slightly larger than dove eggs.

What was also noticeable when it came to the behavior of these birds is that both males and females incubate the eggs before they hatch into baby pigeons — a process that lasts for about 18 days.

10. Symbolism

Dove with outstretched wings


Doves have long been associated with innocence, serenity, and purity in various cultures and religious traditions. They are frequently viewed as emblems of peace, love, and hope.

In Christianity, the dove represents the Holy Spirit and is associated with the Noah’s Ark tale, in which a dove offers an olive branch to signify the end of the deluge and the start of a new period.


Pigeons, too, carry symbolic meanings that differ from their dove counterparts. Unlike doves, pigeons are often seen as representations of resilience, adaptability, and loyalty.

Moreover, pigeons can navigate and find their way home, even over vast distances. This has led to their association with qualities such as determination, perseverance, and loyalty.

What Are the Similarities Between Pigeons and Doves?

As you already know the distinction between pigeons and doves, it is time to discuss what makes the two birds interchangeable.

Here are some of the similarities between doves and pigeons:

  • Taxonomy: Both pigeons and doves belong to the same family, the Columbidae.
  • Appearance: Pigeons and doves have similar physical appearances, with plump bodies, small heads, and short beaks.
  • Plumage: They exhibit various colors and patterns in their feathers, including shades of gray, brown, white, and iridescent hues.
  • Flight: Pigeons and doves are agile flyers, capable of fast and sustained flights, often with characteristic wing flapping followed by gliding.
  • Voice: They produce melodious cooing sounds, which are used for communication, courtship displays, and territorial defense.
  • Diet: Both species feed on seeds, grains, fruits, and small invertebrates.
  • Nesting habits: Pigeons and doves build nests with twigs, grass, and leaves. They also lay one or two eggs at a time.
  • Parental care: Both species exhibit parental care, with both parents incubating the eggs and feeding and caring for the young.
  • Global distribution: Pigeons and doves have widespread global distribution, inhabiting various ecosystems, including urban areas, forests, and grasslands.

The similarities mentioned between pigeons and doves are indicative of their close evolutionary relationship. Knowing these things can help us appreciate these amazing birds and their special role in nature even more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two pigeons up close

Is a Pigeon the Same as a Dove?

Doves and pigeons are both members of the Columbidae family of birds. This explains why these two animals have many similarities. Nonetheless, pigeons and doves are two different species within the same family.

Is a Dove Just a White Pigeon?

Doves are not white pigeons. Although some pigeon species are predominantly white, not all white pigeons are technically doves.

Take the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), for instance, which can be found in various hues, including white, gray, and brown. The white variety is still regarded as a pigeon in this context.

What Family Do Pigeons Belong To?

Pigeons are members of the Columbidae family. This family of birds has more than 300 different species that are found all over the world except for the polar regions.

Can Doves and Pigeons Mate?

Pigeons and doves do not typically mate and reproduce because they are different species. Genetically, pigeons possess 80 chromosomes, whereas doves have 76 or 78 chromosomes.

Although there have been rumors that pigeons and doves have occasionally mated, these claims have always been made about birds housed in less-than-ideal conditions, including tiny cages.

Understanding the general differences between doves and pigeons in size, coloration, and call can help distinguish between the two birds. What are your thoughts and questions about the topic of pigeons and doves? Let us know in the comments below!

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