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Dove vs. Pigeon: What’re the Differences?

Nicole Cosgrove

Although you might think that there are quite a few differences between doves and pigeons, you would be surprised. The terms “dove” and “pigeon” are almost entirely subjective, based mainly on the country that you live in and the language that you speak. Scientifically, there are no significant differences because these birds both belong to the same order, and many doves and pigeons share scientific families.

The differences that we will cover here have more to do with the broad terms that we use in English rather than any differences between extant species. So, when you think of a pigeon, think of the common pigeon seen across North America. For the doves, think of a common species, like the mourning dove.

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Visual Differences

dove vs pigeon
Image Credit: Left – Dove (greghristov, Pixabay); Right – Pigeon (Rajesh Balouria, Pixabay)

At a Glance

Dove
  • Average height (adult): 12 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 0-6.0 ounces
  • Lifespan: 3-7 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Tame, docile, placid
Pigeons
  • Average height (adult): 8-13.8 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 8-12.3 ounces
  • Lifespan: 3-7 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Somewhat capable of trainability, docile

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Dove Overview

Dove on close up
Image Credit: chrisjmit, Pixabay

Personality / Character

Most species of doves share characteristics. When it comes to their physical build, they will have small heads, rounded bodies, long wings, and pointed bills. However, when it comes to the dove, most of their weight comes from their wings — 40%, to be exact.

Their personalities are close to the same as well. They are friendly when they are socialized and trained. They are also quite consistent, and their characters are relatively unchangeable. Since there are more than 300 species of birds that we call doves, it is difficult to pinpoint their exact characteristics. However, you are likely to get a docile and calm bird.

Training

You can train a dove because they are so easy to tame. Since they tend to enjoy human contact, they will be easier to keep calm when you handle them during your training sessions. Do be careful with them, though. If you are abrupt or harsh during training sessions, they might try to fly away. If they feel threatened, they may try to scratch or bite. Naturally, they are not aggressive, though, so this is rare.

Health & Care

Doves
Image Credit: Aruns212, Pixabay

If you have a pet dove, you should keep their cage in a draft-free area. This space shouldn’t be in direct sunlight. The birds will be most comfortable if the humidity is between 50-70%. Always make sure they have food to eat and keep their water clean and replace it daily. You will need to clean their entire cage once a week.

You can keep these birds with other birds and other species when they are kept in a more roomy aviary.

Suitable for

Doves are best suited for caretakers who have the time to allow them to exercise and keep up with their necessary routines in captivity. Doves need plenty of interaction with their caretakers because they are so sociable. They also prefer to have companions, so keeping them with other birds will end up improving their quality of life.

Common species of doves kept as pets include the Diamond Dove and the Ring-necked Dove.

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Pigeon Overview

Pigeon on wire
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Personality / Character

Pigeons tend to be birds that are full of personality. They are typically the birds that you imagine flocking to tourists and watching for a couple of breadcrumbs to drop. However, many species of pigeons are beautiful and known for their peaceful, docile attitudes. These birds can be quite charming.

Physically, pigeons tend to be plump birds with small bills and what is known as a skin saddle between their bills and foreheads. It is somewhat easy to identify a pigeon by the way that they walk. They tend to strut about, bobbing their heads as they go.

Training

You can train a pigeon about as easily as you can train a dove. Since they are affable and docile creatures, they will easily listen to new commands after you work with them for a while.

The messenger pigeon was trained to accomplish specific and important tasks. Although this specific species is now extinct, there are still many pigeons trained to take messages or other objects back and forth to certain locations.

Health & Care

pigeon resting
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Pigeons need constant access to clean drinking water, both for drinking and for bathing. Keep in mind that pigeons need to be able to dip their entire beak into their drink, so keep their water at least 1 inch deep at all times. It is best to keep a pigeon in a larger aviary. They will be able to forage and get more exercise this way, leading happier lives all around.

Suitable for

Pigeons are suitable for a wide range of caretakers as long as you have the time and space to accommodate them. Pigeons are affable birds that will easily get along with other species if they are kept together.

The most common species of dove kept as pets include Homers, Tumblers, and Fantails.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

If you are looking to choose between the dove and the pigeon, it is essential to realize that your choice should be based more on the species rather than the linguistic difference between the dove and the pigeon. Research the species and their character traits to find the right match for you.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.