Columbidae is a bird family consisting of pigeons and doves. It is the only family in the order Columbiformes. These are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills that in some species feature fleshy ceres. They primarily feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. The family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalayan and Australasian realms.
The family contains 344 species divided into 50 genera. Thirteen of the species are extinct.
In English, the smaller species tend to be called "doves" and the larger ones "pigeons". However, the distinction is not consistent, and does not exist in most other languages. Historically, the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms. The bird most commonly referred to as just "pigeon" is the domestic pigeon, which is common in many cities as the feral pigeon.
Doves and pigeons build relatively flimsy nests, often using sticks and other debris, which may be placed on branches of trees, on ledges, or on the ground, depending on species. They lay one or (usually) two white eggs at a time, and both parents care for the young, which leave the nest after 25–32 days. Unfledged baby doves and pigeons are called squabs and are generally able to fly by 5 weeks of age. These fledglings, with their immature squeaking voices, are called squeakers once they are weaned or weaning. Unlike most birds, both sexes of doves and pigeons produce "crop milk" to feed to their young, secreted by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop.
Pigeons and doves are distributed everywhere on Earth, except for the driest areas of the Sahara Desert, Antarctica and its surrounding islands, and the high Arctic. They have colonised most of the world's oceanic islands, reaching eastern Polynesia and the Chatham Islands in the Pacific, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Réunion in the Indian Ocean, and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.
The family has adapted to most of the habitats available on the planet. These species may be arboreal, terrestrial, or semi-terrestrial. Various species also inhabit savanna, grassland, desert, temperate woodland and forest, mangrove forest, and even the barren sands and gravels of atolls.
Some species have large natural ranges. The eared dove ranges across the entirety of South America from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego, the Eurasian collared dove has a massive (if discontinuous) distribution from Britain across Europe, the Middle East, India, Pakistan and China, and the laughing dove across most of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Other species have tiny, restricted distributions; this is most common in island endemics. The whistling dove is endemic to the tiny Kadavu Island in Fiji, the Caroline ground dove is restricted to two islands, Truk and Pohnpei in the Caroline Islands, and the Grenada dove is restricted to Grenada in the Caribbean. Some continental species also have tiny distributions; for example, the black-banded fruit dove is restricted to a small area of the Arnhem Land of Australia, the Somali pigeon is restricted to a tiny area of northern Somalia, and Moreno's ground dove is restricted to the area around Salta and Tucuman in northern Argentina.
The largest range of any species is that of the rock dove. This species had a large natural distribution from Britain and Ireland to northern Africa, across Europe, Arabia, Central Asia, India, the Himalayas and up into China and Mongolia. The range of the species increased dramatically upon domestication, as the species went feral in cities around the world. The species is currently resident across most of North America, and has established itself in cities and urban areas in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The species is not the only pigeon to have increased its range due to the actions of man; several other species have become established outside of their natural range after escaping captivity, and other species have increased their natural ranges due to habitat changes caused by human activity. A 2020 study found that the East Coast of the U.S. includes two pigeon genetic megacities, in New York and Boston, and the birds do not mix together.