Rock pigeons — originally known as rock doves — are native to Europe, introduced to this country by colonists in the early 17th century, and due to their ability to adapt, they've thrived in both urban and natural settings ever since. Domesticated some 5,000 years ago, the birds have been used as messengers, in racing clubs, and their refined homing abilities lend the species to research to this day, helping scientists better understand how birds navigate. But it's the feral animals that we see in the Triad — including Greensboro, says North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission bird conservation biologist Scott Anderson.
“If they were declining, I would be very surprised,” says Anderson. “The standard story of declining birds is that they rely on more natural habitat — like wood thrushes, for example. There are sort of forests around — and as we convert those forests to other habitat types, whether they're more urban or suburban, then those birds are losing their habitat. But rock pigeons are kind of the opposite ... they do really well in urban environments.”
While recent estimates show a net loss of nearly 3 billion birds in North America since 1970, Anderson says pigeons are not on the list of threatened species. He adds there's little way of confirming if there's been a population decline specifically in Greensboro until the completion of the North Carolina Bird Atlas, where bird enthusiasts monitor and report populations among the roughly 470 species in the state. The five-year project wraps up in 2026, and it's open to the public.