A lot of confusion prevails regarding the classification of carrier pigeons, homing pigeons, and passenger pigeons. One can easily be mistaken for the other. It is widely believed that homing pigeons who can trace the route back to their homes can also be trained to deliver messages. These trained pigeons acted as real lifesavers as these pigeons were used as messengers, playing a major role during the First World War. Homing pigeons delivered crucial messages whilst putting their lives at great risk. However, early records dating back to the fifth century reveal that these pigeons were used to carry messages and news in Egypt, Persia, and Syria during the fifth century. The Romans allegedly used carrier pigeons to announce the results of games.
The carrier pigeon (Columba livia domestica) is a unique bird that is still revered and remembered for its contribution to human communication before the introduction of phones, the internet, and other modes of communication (especially during World War I). The origin of the bird lacks detailed research but it is widely believed that the species was developed from wild rock doves.
Continue reading to learn some more illuminating facts about these celebrated carrier pigeons and if you enjoy the content then don't forget to take a look at some amazing bird facts about the red bird of paradise and the barn owl too.
What do they prey on?
Small insects and earthworms
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
1 lb (453 g)
How long are they?
17-19 in (44-47 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
Grayish-black with variations
What are their main threats?
Sparrowhawks, peregrines, raccoons, ravens, hawks, screech owls, human activities
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
All over the world except for Antarctica
Forests and domestic spaces
Columba livia domestica
Carrier Pigeon Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a carrier pigeon?
The carrier pigeon (Columba livia domestica) is a species of bird of the order Columbiformes, genus Columba, and family Columbidae.
What class of animal does a carrier pigeon belong to?
The exact population of the breed in current existence is not known due to a lack of records. However, it can be said that these birds are pretty common.
Where does a carrier pigeon live?
The homing pigeon can be found in almost every corner of the world apart from Antarctica, including Europe and Asia. These birds can adapt well to changes in their environment due to their strong survival instincts. On the other hand, the English carrier pigeon is mainly found in England in the United Kingdom.
What is a carrier pigeon's habitat?
Normally wild and untamed homing pigeons live in forest covers while pigeons used as messengers or pets can be found in domesticated areas.
Who does a carrier pigeon live with?
Carrier pigeons live both in flocks and with partners (especially during the breeding periods). When kept as pets, they can also serve as companions to human beings.
How long does a carrier pigeon live?
English carrier pigeons can live for seven to ten years.
How do they reproduce?
The reproduction process in pigeons is different from in other bird species. These birds are known to be monogamous and females attain maturity at about seven months when they become receptive to sexual advances. Both genders possess cloacal tracts that are used during the reproduction process. Nests can be built on a loft or the window ledge of a building. Males are responsible for gathering nesting materials and protecting the nest during incubation. After breeding, females lay one to three eggs (three at most) which hatch after an average of 18 days. The hatchlings are fed pigeon milk from females and fledging occurs within 25 to 32 days after hatching.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation status of carrier pigeons is currently Not Evaluated on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, perhaps because they are currently not in a vulnerable position.
Carrier Pigeon Fun Facts
What do carrier pigeons look like?
Whilst homing pigeons come in darker shades of grayish-black, the English carrier pigeon possesses a unique appearance. They have a slender but moderately large body but their defining feature is their long neck. They possess a grayish-black head, a black beak, and dark red or orange eyes. There are absolutely no feathers under their knees.
How cute are they?
More than being defined as cute, these birds are more popular for their high intelligence levels. Apart from possessing a beautiful outward appearance, they are one of the most intellectual birds known.
How do they communicate?
Communication forms an essential part of any interaction between flock members (both males and females) of the species. Vocalizations include cooing in soft or high-pitched notes depending upon the circumstance. Alarm calls differ from flight calls and from the pleasing notes that males let out to appease their counterparts before mating. Although these birds have not been classified as songbirds they use a variety of notes and sounds to communicate. Additionally, pigeons are adept at using body language such as preening and billing to express their emotions. For instance, pigeons often engage in preening to portray affection and love for their partner. They also communicate words and messages on humans' behalf!
How big is a carrier pigeon?
Carrier pigeons generally have an average length that ranges from about 17-19 in (44-47 cm). They are smaller than the giant runt but larger than the Valencian figurita, which is considered to be the smallest among all pigeons in the world.
How fast can a carrier pigeon fly?
The carrier pigeon was used extensively for carrying messages to distant places amidst life-threatening situations. During World War II, these pigeons were required to fly distances as long as 240 mi (390 km) which required hours of flight. An average speed of about 59 mph (95 kph) has been recorded.
How much does a carrier pigeon weigh?
Normally, a carrier pigeon's weight is approximately around 1 lb (453 g).
What are their male and female names of the species?
A male pigeon is commonly called a 'cock' while a female is regarded as a 'hen'.
What would you call a baby carrier pigeon?
A baby carrier pigeon can be called a number of words, such as a 'squeaker' or a 'squab'.
What do they eat?
These birds are normally omnivorous in nature which implies that they can feed on multifarious food items like seeds, fruits, grains, vegetables, or even small insects, earthworms, and snails.
Are they poisonous?
Although the bird is known to be gentle in nature owing to the fact that it can be domesticated, maintaining close contact with the bird can prove to be harmful. Although they are not fatal for humans, the feces of this bird is considered to be highly toxic and it can cause diseases like cryptococcosis, psittacosis, and histoplasmosis. More research on this subject is needed to help us understand the degree of toxicity associated with these birds.
Would they make a good pet?
The homing pigeon is one of the most tameable birds among all species of birds. They are very easy to train and can be reared as pets. However, there are risks associated with the bird's droppings. Diseases like histoplasmosis can lead to severe lung problems.
Did you know...
An entire group of pigeons flying together is referred to as a kit or more commonly a flock of pigeons.
Did you know that pigeons have a commendable memory? They can be trained to identify individual letters as well as memorize words! They are very quick learners.
There are several breeds of the carrier pigeon (Columba livia domestica) that are still in existence. However, they are now reared mainly by a select few breeders who have taken a fancy to the breed. They are no longer utilized as messengers but are used instead for bird shows. They are also popularly used for bird racing in European countries and the USA.
Descendants of the rock dove, these pigeons love bobbing their heads. This is because they possess frontal eyes that offer them monocular vision. The bobbing action aids them to get an in-depth perception of objects.
In our present world dominated by technology, we can post an email in a jiffy but have you ever wondered how messages were carried from place to place without these modern gadgets and technologies at our disposal? Trained homing pigeons were used for this service! These birds possess such intelligence, swiftness, and strength that they could fly for hours and cover miles after miles without tiring.
Do you know that G.I. Joe, Commando, Beach Comber, Winkie, and a few other carrier pigeons were thanked for their unfettered contributions during the war years? While G.I. Joe is credited for saving thousands, Cher Ami is another pigeon from history honored with the Croix de Guerre medal for its exemplary service. Even after being severely injured in the chest and leg, the bird persisted on its journey and delivered the mail attached to it.
Research has shown that Noah was the first to release a carrier pigeon to scout and check if the flood was over (thus 'inventing' the carrier pigeon). The Romans also used these animals to send news of chariot races and entry placements. In ancient Greece, they were used to announce winners of the Olympics and Charlemagne made pigeon-raising a noble task. Genghis Khan set up pigeon relay posts across eastern Europe and Asia too.
How did carrier pigeons carry messages?
Renowned for their postal service during the war, these birds are not limited to the boundaries of the land. They could fly for prolonged hours, across long sea routes to deliver a message. The natural ability of homing pigeons to figure out the route back to their original home is a matter of great scientific interest. These pigeons have a remarkable power of aerial recognition, an inherent mapping ability, and great and navigation instincts. They use magnetoreception or could also take cues from the sun's position to navigate.
Carrier pigeons in WWI
Carrier pigeons had a crucial service to complete during the First World War and thus they play an important part in the world's history. Soldiers used carrier pigeons to carry important messages. This involved immense risks as they had to fly past enemy lines with a constant danger of being fired at. However, these brave homing pigeon birds carried on their service amidst all adversities and delivered the messages, flying many miles successfully to their point of destination.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these frigate bird facts and crowned eagle facts for kids.
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