Lifestyle and Lifespan
The speckled pigeon is a little larger than the pigeons (rock doves) we see in cities here in the US. They have a light gray head, chest, belly, and tail. The upper wings and back are maroon to brown, fading to dark gray at the tips and leading edge of the wing, and speckled with white. The neck and breast are reddish, with the feathers fading to gray. The skin surrounding the eye is red and featherless, and the eye is amber. The beak is short and dark gray, and the feet are red-pink. Males and females look alike, though males are more heavily built. Juveniles have an overall brownish gray coloring.
There are two or three subspecies of Speckled Pigeon, depending on the source. The nominate subspecies, C. g. guinea, is found in the northern part of the range, from Senegal and Guinea east to Ethiopia and Somalia, then south through Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. C. g. phaeonata is found in eastern Zimbabwe and South Africa. C. g. bradfieldi is found from southwestern Angola to western Zimbabwe, south to the northwestern corner of South Africa.
Their wings are very strong, helping them fly quickly over long distances.
This is an adaptable species, inhabiting savanna, open woodland, agricultural fields, and urban areas. They will use cliffs, gorges, and rocky outcroppings, as well as roosting on tall buildings in cities. They are absent from dense forest and desert.
These birds may travel up to 15 miles away from their roosting site to forage.
It feeds on grains and seeds primarily, but occasionally will also eat fruits and leaves.
Speckled Pigeons may be prey to hawks, eagles, snakes, and other carnivores. Additionally, pigeon eggs may be food to opportunistic animals.
The day is spent foraging for food, and the pigeons may travel up to 15 miles to get it.
Flocking behavior helps minimize the risk of predation, which gets spread out over the entire flock.
The Speckled Pigeon is a social bird, often seen in pairs or small groups and flying and feeding in large flocks. Some flocks can contain up to 700 birds!
Breeding takes place year-round, but peaks at the end of the dry season. During courtship, the male will bow low, flick his wings, and vocalize, puffing out his throat and making the feathers point outward. The nest and be constructed of sticks and grass, a shallow scrape, or a cavity, and are made in trees, on cliffs and buildings, or at the base of the leaves of the Borassus palms. In urban areas, human-made items can be found in the nest structure.
On average, the typical clutch is 2 small white eggs. Male and female both incubate them for about two weeks, and then broods the chicks for the first couple of days. Both parents will feed the chick with crop milk. Chicks fledge between 20 to 25 days, depending on location.
The Speckled Pigeon is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and is not listed on any of the CITES Appendices.
The species was formally described in 1758. The subspecies C. g. phaeonata was recognized in 1856, and C. g. bradfieldi was recognized in 1931.
Introduced Non-Native, Domestic, and Invasive Species
Exhibit and educate
Birds often use what they find in their environment to build their nest. In urban areas, they may end up with human refuse in their nest. Please make sure that you properly dispose of and sort your waste so that they do not end up in an animal’s home.
While the Speckled Pigeon is a strong flyer, like all pigeons and doves, it will also run and walk to get away from threats.
The Speckled Pigeon is related closely to the Rock Dove, commonly called a pigeon, which is found in most U.S. cities. In fact, all pigeons and doves are in the same family, Columbidae!
Some members of the Columbidae family can use their beak like a straw to suck up water! Most birds have to toss their head back to drink.
Both male and female will feed their chicks crop milk, which is a secretion from the lining of the crop and is regurgitated to the young birds. The crop is a pouch in the esophagus and is part of the digestive tract. It is used to temporarily store food.
When the chicks hatch, they are covered with yellow down feathers! The feathers darken as they grow and molt. They acquire adult plumage at maturity.