The genus Columba is the largest within the pigeon family, and has the widest distribution. Its members are typically pale grey or brown, often with white head or neck markings or iridescent green or purple patches on the neck and breast. The neck feathers may be stiffened and aligned to form grooves, but these are absent in this species. The stock dove is less grey in plumage than other pigeons in Europe.
The three western European Columba pigeons, though superficially alike, have very distinctive characteristics. The wood pigeon may be readily distinguished by the white on its neck (in adults) and wings. The rock pigeon and stock dove are more alike in size and plumage, but wild specimens of the former have a white rump and two well-marked dark bars on the wing, while the rump of the stock dove is grey and its wing bars incomplete. The feral pigeon (the same species as rock pigeon) is highly variable, and indistinctly marked grey specimens with the white rump missing can sometimes resemble the stock dove quite closely.
The stock dove is sociable as well as gregarious, often consorting with wood pigeons, though doubtless it is the presence of food which brings them together.
The short, deep, "grunting" Ooo-uu-ooh call is quite distinct from the modulated cooing notes of the wood pigeon; it is loud enough to be described, somewhat fancifully, as "roaring".