Pigeon, a family of gentle, softvoiced birds, found wild and domesticated throughout the world. The word pigeon is the general name of the family and also the usual term for the larger members of the family; the smaller members are called doves. White domestic pigeons traditionally are called doves when they symbolize peace or, in the Christian religion the Holy Spirit. Pairs of pigeons or doves also are symbols of love, because they seem affectionate in courtship and mate for life.
There are about 300 species of pigeons and doves. Only the Arctic and Antarctic regions have no native species. Two-thirds of the species are found in southeastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. The family is notable for two extinct species, the dodo and the passenger pigeon.