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Although they are part of the same family as doves, pigeons tend to have a less favorable reputation. In the early 1600s, pilgrims brought domesticated European rock doves to America to keep as pets and use for food. Eventually, some escaped into the wild and became the feral pigeons that are common in urban areas today. These pests are abundant across the United States and are among the most plentiful birds in the world.
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The appearance of pigeons varies a great deal. Seed-eating species tend to have neutral-colored beaks, gray feathers, white backsides, and black stripes on their wings and tails. On the other hand, primarily fruit-eating varieties often display bright-colored feathers and orange beaks. On average, pigeons are about a foot long and weigh around 13 ounces.
Pigeons pluck seeds from the ground and eat fruit straight from trees. In fact, large flocks often work together to pick an area clean. Big, easy-to-reach fruit is left for larger pigeons, while the smaller birds stick to tiny, hard-to-reach items. During times when food is scarce, the pests also feed on flowers, as well as snails, lizards, and insects.
Pigeons can be found in deserts, forests, and urban habitats alike. The only places they’re not seen are those that experience extreme, arctic cold. These highly adaptable birds are known for scavenging scraps from the ground or garbage cans in big cities, where their populations can grow quite large. However, they’re also a major nuisance for farmers in rural areas, causing inventory loss and contamination issues when they gather around grain elevators and mills.