Proposal (109) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Columba livia from "Rock Dove" to "Rock Pigeon"


I would like to recommend to the AOU Checklist committee that the English name of C. livia be change from Rock Dove to Rock Pigeon.


The latest BOU Checklist (Available online at: gives the English name for C. livia as Rock Pigeon instead of the AOU's Rock Dove. They also have C. oenas listed as Stock Pigeon instead of Stock Dove. Since this change was made in 2001 published books such as PIGEONS AND DOVES: A guide to pigeons and doves of the World by David Gibbs et al. and A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF CHINA by John Mackinnon and Karen Phillipps have adopted the English name Rock Pigeon for C. livia. This change would also agree with the general generic name for the genus Columba, which is "pigeon." This change would also agree with the common vernacular name for the species that is even used by ornithologists.


Ian Paulsen, March 2004




Addendum from Remsen: The above was submitted to the AOU Checklist Committee in 2002, and was reluctantly approved. Although most on the AOUCLC saw no real reason to change the long-standing name of this species, AOU policy is to follow BOU when the species is primarily a Palearctic species.


Comments from Stiles: "YES. English name proposals generally don't inspire me, but this one is positively soporific. Between yawns, and in the name of Anglo-Saxon unity (or something), a slightly bleary YES."


Comments from Nores: "SI. Estoy muy de acuerdo, salvo casos excepcionales, que todas las especies de un mismo género tengan la misma denominación básica. En este caso Pigeon."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO ­ Following the same general thought I have been following on this series of proposals. There is nothing really wrong with the old name, and it does have a long history, so why change it? If the reason is to standardize an English name on a list of South American birds, to fall into line with a recent change made by the AOU in order to match a recent change that was made in England - well it just seems silly. Rock Dove doesn't really bother me, at least not as much as Common Moorhen does. Besides I love the bander code "RODO" and don't want to lose that."


Comments from Schulenberg: "NO. I don't think that I accept the idea that all members of a genus "really ought" to have the same English group name, which seems to be the basic rationale of the British checklist committee. Maybe I'll revise that opinion when the AOU Check-list Committee changes the English name of Turdus migratorius from "American Robin" to "[inane modifier] Thrush". But until then, I prefer to resist this rush to conformity.


"Furthermore, I'm not convinced that the question of what name to adopt primarily belongs to the BOU. I see this case as qualitatively different than species that breed only or primarily in the Old World and occur in the New World only as vagrants, rare migrants, or very local breeders. There are wild populations of Columba livia in the United Kingdom, which is not the case in North (or South) America. But in Europe, as is true here, it primarily is a human commensal found in urban environments. Given that situation, Columba livia is scarcely "their" bird anymore than it is ours.


"If the AOU thinks that the BOU name change makes sense on its merits, that is one thing. But the AOU is reportedly "saw no real reason to change the long-standing name of this species". So why go along with it? Why should we?"


Comments from Zimmer: "NO. And I'm not even sure why, except that I've come to associate "Rock Dove" so strongly with the grimy feral pigeons that really aren't European birds any more. "Rock Pigeon" almost conveys more legitimacy on the birds than they deserve."


Comments from Stotz: "Yes I voted No on the AOU north proposal, but it seems like tilting at windmills, to try to maintain Rock Dove against the momentum from all the other committees. South America is probably the continent where this bird probably has its most restricted range."