Pigeons are among the most common birds we encounter in our daily lives, yet their biology is surprisingly complex. Their adaptability and digestive capabilities allow them to thrive in a wide range of habitats, making them resilient. Biological facts include:
- Pigeons remain with their flocks and mostly eat in groups.
- They wag their heads back and forth as they strut about.
- They are strong, quick fliers, thanks to their long wings and powerful flight muscles.
And here’s one to stump your technicians and customers: Did you know they are one of the only bird species capable of sipping water, rather than having to bend their head back to enable it to flow down their throat?
Pigeons have been observed to be monogamous and exhibit a high degree of parental care:
- They usually lay only one or two eggs at a time, and they hatch after only 17 to 20 days.
- Young pigeons are fed “crop milk” from both male and female parents. This is a white substance secreted on a mature pigeon’s crop, which is basically an enlarged part of the esophagus.
Once these fledglings reach four to six weeks of age, they leave their parents’ nests for good. But before these youngsters have left the nest, more eggs are laid. This occurs during all four seasons, meaning that pigeon numbers increase drastically the longer they are left to their own devices.
Still, these young pigeons remain with the flock and continue to utilize lofts, attics and other concealed locations in and around structures as their roosting spots after they have fled the nest.
A PUBLIC HEALTH PEST
Because of their rapidly increasing numbers, pigeons rely heavily on humans for their food sources, as well as roosting and nesting sites. These birds only require 1 ounce of water per day, meaning just a small amount of stagnant water or snow is all they need. Pigeons in rural regions feed on seed and grain frequently, posing a major problem for farmers. In urban settings, they scavenge for whatever they can find — from littered food in streets and sidewalks to open dumpsters. The more improperly stored and disposed of food supply you provide, the more pigeons you will have.
While pigeons usually live up to 15 years in captivity, feral pigeons often only have a lifespan of 3 to 4 years. They often die of one of the various diseases they are known to carry, or else because of a predator.
Their nesting material, made up of twigs, leaves, and straw, is often reused for the whole year. It hardens after a few uses from their droppings, and is a serious health risk: Not only is the nest where their diseases can spread, it is also a perfect environment for bird mites. Left there long enough, the bird mites spread to whatever other suitable habitat they can find — and often, entire buildings.
Why do pigeons rely so much on humans to survive? There are two main reasons:
- The majority of the North American pigeon population originated from domesticated birds that had escaped. They became accustomed to relying on people for their food and water sources over time, and they stayed near us as a result.
- The various pigeon species have a common ancestor, whose original habitat was cliff sides and steep rock faces, resulting in the common name of “rock dove.” Cities with skyscrapers and tall buildings that provide ledges and overhangs for them to roost on are the closest thing they have to their native homes in many regions,. Thus, they stay there out of instinct.