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BirdNote®: Dove or Pigeon?

Air Date: Week of

Eurasian collared dove (Photo: Doug Greenberg, CC)

“Dove” and “pigeon” may bring different images to mind, but there’s no formal distinction between these birds. As BirdNote®’s Michael Stein reports, they’re both members of a diverse family that includes some of the most colorful birds in the world.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: Shakespeare famously asked, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” In this week’s Bird Note Michael Stein poses a similar question.

Dove or Pigeon?
“Dove” and “pigeon” may bring different images to mind. Doves seem elegant, bringers of peace.
[Mourning Dove song, ML 22930 W. Fish)
Pigeons, particularly the rowdy flocks of city birds, may seem… less appealing.
[Rock Pigeon wing flaps, https://www.xeno-canto.org/611438]

But despite these associations, there is no formal distinction between doves and pigeons, only a linguistic one. The word “pigeon” came into the English language from French, while “dove” came from Nordic languages. In many languages, the birds are one and the same.

And the family is a lot bigger and more diverse than just the common North American varieties: there are 308 species of doves and pigeons, including some of the most beautiful and colorful birds in the world.
[Victoria Crowned-Pigeon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5QTnNqngFg]

The silver and purple Victoria Crowned-Pigeon of New Guinea is the world’s largest, nearly two and a half feet long. At the small end are several species of ground-doves of the American tropics, measuring six inches — not much bigger than a sparrow — and ranging from bright cinnamon-brown to dark blue.
[ground dove/Inca Dove sp. https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/140228#_ga=2.98992920.784469730.16164…]

A mourning dove (Photo: Trish Hartmann, CC)

Call them what you like — they are a fabulous group of birds.

Written by Bob Sundstrom
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Digital Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Rock Pigeon Xeno Canto 611438 recorded by U. Paal, and ground dove/Inca Dove sp. ML 140228 recorded by G. Vyn., Mourning Dove ML22930 recorded by W. Fish
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2021 BirdNote July 2021 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# dove-pigeon-01-2021-07-06 dove-pigeon-01



CURWOOD: For photos fly on over to the Living on Earth website, loe dot org.



Find this story and more on the BirdNote® website

The Spruce | “Beautiful Pictures of Pigeons And Doves”

Learn more about the Rock Pigeon at All About Birds


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