Differences Between a Dove & a Pigeon


Pigeons and doves are in the Columbidae family. Their sizes range from 6.5 inches to 15.5 inches long. People use the two names interchangeably, though dove usually applies to the smaller of this species and pigeon for the larger ones. There are no other firm distinguishing features between doves and pigeons other than the names. However, this is not true for the rock dove. Although it is called a dove, it is the common pigeon found most often in cities.

Small Doves

  • The common and Ruddy ground-dove, and the Inca are 6 to 8 inches long. All three have rufous wings. The Inca has a long tail, and scaly, gray body, while the common ground-dove has a brown body and dark tail with white corners. The Ruddy ground-dove is rufous on top and wine-colored underneath with a blue-gray head.

Medium Doves

  • The ringed turtle dove (also known as the Eurasian collared-dove) has a black half ring on the back of the neck. The ringed turtle doves and mourning doves are sandy colored. The white-winged dove is brownish-gray and has black wings with a broad white diagonal band. The white-tipped dove is dark gray with a light gray breast and a white throat and forehead. The ringed turtle dove has darker buff wings and a pale, gray-pink head and breast. All of these doves are approximately 12 inches long and all of them except the mourning dove have rounded tails.

Large Pigeons

  • The rock dove and band-tail pigeon are slightly over 13 inches. The rock dove is a chunky bird with a short, rounded tail, two narrow, black wing bands and a black tail band. Body colors range from buff white, rust or all black. The band-tail pigeon is dark gray on top fading to white on the lower belly. It has a purple head and under parts.

Dove Calls

  • The Inca's call is a soft repeated coo-coo sound and the common ground-dove has a coo-oo coo-oo sound that rises in inflection. The Ruddy ground-dove's cry is a woo-woo with an occasional per-woo per-woo while the ringed turtle dove voices a soft koo-krooo with emphasis on the second syllable. The mourning dove's call is a slow mournful coo coo coo, while the white-winged dove makes more of a hooo hooo ho hooo sound. The white-tipped dove's call sounds like a deep foghorn. The rock dove cries with a soft guttural cooing and the band-tailed pigeon has a deep owl-type call.


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