Feral Pigeon vs. Domestic Pigeon vs. Rock Pigeon/Dove

(Not sure if this is a question for General category or for Nature Talk. Hopefully someone can move ir if this is the wrong place.)

From the little I’ve read, it sounds like most city pigeons are feral pigeons whose ancestors were once domestic pigeons which in turn were derived from rock pigeons/rock doves.

Does the iNaturalist community prefer that Feral Pigeon be indicated for pigeons of this type seen in cities?

Or are the differences minor enough that the names can be used interchangeably?

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Welcome to the forum!

Since Feral Pigeon is a “subspecies level” designation, you are likely to get varying answers from the community based on their personal feelings towards subspecies (see Benefit/Significance of Adding Subspecies among other topics).

My two cents: don’t add a Feral Pigeon designation unless you can reasonably rule out all other options. For me, that means only adding the Feral designation for observations in the Americas and Australia. Where other subspecies occur, I would avoid assuming all individuals in the city are specifically Feral Pigeons, even though that is the most likely case.


Ah. I’m in the U.S., so presumably all feral here?

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Yes, all Rock Pigeons in North America can be safely designated as Feral Pigeons.

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Good to know. Thanks.

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I’m from Argentina, and the feral pigeon is the most common one but we’ve got plenty of native ones as well.

To clarify, I meant all Rock Pigeons (Columba livia) in the Americas can safely be labeled as Feral Pigeons (Columba livia domestica). I did not mean to imply that the Americas don’t have native pigeons of other species.



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eBird goes the other direction: don’t use the general species designation unless the bird you’ve recorded could reasonably be either wild-type or feral, which is not the case in most of the world, and not the case for probably 99%+ of iNaturalist observations.

Wild-type Rock Doves are quite rare and only occur in a few places globally. The default in almost every part of the world (and even in countries where Rock Dove is native) is Feral Pigeon. While taxonomically it might seem more conservative to leave observations at species level, this is a special case. Unless there are really good reasons to suspect wild-type Rock Dove, identify as Feral Pigeon.


If you really want to denote wild-type, why not ID those observations to one of the 13 other subspecies (going by iNat’s preferred taxonomy; wild-type on ebird is a field marker distinction, not a taxonomic one). That seems like the better way to call them out, since you won’t be able to consistently keep all Feral Pigeon observations IDed to subspecies.

Even ebirds guidelines are:

Please do not enter “Rock Pigeon” except in rare cases where both Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) and Rock Pigeon (Wild type) co-occur and can be difficult to distinguish.

I realize wild type is more restricted than all of Europe, Africa, and Asia, I was merely trying to provide a quick reference of the continents where the wild type does not occur at all.

According to eBird:

almost all birds in cities and around farmlands will be Feral Pigeons.

So feel free to dicount my previous statement:

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Fair points - iNaturalist is different to eBird, but being aware of how eBird handles this, I thought it was useful to mention.


Certainly! My real point is “don’t add a subspecies designation unless you have reason to believe it is that subspecies”. Given eBird’s statement, I do now think occurring in a city is good enough reason to believe an observation is the feral subspecies. Additionally, many people are more knowledgeable about the specifics of the wild-type’s range in other parts of the world and may be able to provide a designation beyond what I personally am capable for individuals in other habitat types.


I doubt there’re more than a couple hundreds of observations now that could be a wild type bird, 99,9% obs are feral pigeons that don’t even look like wild ones. There’re some feral populations that got to have wild colouration, but they’re still feral.

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There are no native Rock Pigeons in Argentina.

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Not rock pigeons but other species of pigeons. E.g eared dove

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