- Common Name(s): Birds, more specifically: Pigeons (Rock Doves), Sparrows (House Sparrows), and Starlings (European Starlings)
- Order: Columbiformes-Pigeons, Passeriformes-Sparrows and Starlings
- Family: Columbidae-Pigeons, Passeridae-Sparrows, Sturnidae-Starlings
- Common Species: Columba livia-Pigeons, Passer domesticus-Sparrows, Sturnus vulgaris-Starling
- Commonly Confused With: N/A
How to Identify?
Pigeons have a mostly light gray body with shimmering purple and green colors on their neck and upper chest. They have two darker gray colored bands on their wings and darker gray to black on the tip of their tail. Adult pigeons weigh anywhere between 9-13 oz. depending on gender, time of year, and availability of food. Sparrows usually have a lighter gray underside, with brown or rust colored feathers on their back and behind their head. They can possess black feathers on the front of their neck and usually have beaks that are short and stubby. Their weight ranges between .85-1.25 oz. depending on gender, time of year, and availability of food. Starlings are mostly black birds with shimmering green and purple colors on their feathers. They have off-white colored specks mixed into their feathers all over their bodies. They can range in weight from 2-3.5 oz depending on gender, time of year, and availability of food.
Where do they live?
In the wild, pigeons live on cliffs close to vegetation, but in the city, they have adapted to take up residence in and on skyscrapers. Sparrows prefer to be in locations that are inhabited by humans. They are not commonly found in forests or other unpopulated locations. They like to build their nests in or on structures that have been built by humans. Starlings have a wide range of habitats, preferring to set up shop pretty much anywhere; this is one feature that has allowed them to become such a nuisance.
What do they eat?
Pigeons that are not in the city feed on seeds, grains, acorns, insects, and some berries. In the city, they feed on crumbs, popcorn, bread given to them by humans, and other food left lying around. Pigeons feed by walking around on the ground to search for food. Sparrows feed on insects, seeds, grains, and food/trash left lying around by humans. They hop around on the ground when foraging for food. Starlings are pretty adaptable when it comes to food. They can change what they are eating without much problem and they can eat pretty much anything. This is another contributing factor that has allowed them to become such a pest.
What do they do?
Pigeons gather in large flocks (groups) walking around on the ground foraging for food. Their great abundance can become an issue because their feces can transmit pathogens, like avian flu. Their feathers can be sucked into different electronic equipment resulting in serious damage or fires, and their nests pose serious fire hazards indoors. If they reside close to airports, they can cause damage to the engine or other parts of the aircraft. In homes or businesses, they can cause damage or negatively impact the aesthetics of the property. Sparrows pose all of the same issues as pigeons but can be even more of a nuisance due to their nesting behaviors. Starlings are pests due to the fact that they have large flocks that are extremely noisy, they can adapt to live and eat almost anywhere or anything, and they can be destructive to homes. These traits can pose serious health and economic consequences, just like those of the pigeons.
Another name for pigeons is rock dove! Birds can be controlled through a number of different methods ranging from chemicals to mechanical control devices.
- Roof, J. 2001. “Passer domesticus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 05, 2018 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Passer_domesticus/
- Adeney, J. M. (2001, October 18). Introduced Species Summary Project–European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Retrieved December 5, 2018, from http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Sturnus_vulgaris.html
- Fernbank Science Center. (n.d.). Birds of Atlanta. Retrieved December 5, 2018, from http://www.fernbank.edu/Birding/common_birds.htm
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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