Feral Pigeons – Information & Tips

Lifespan

The feral pigeon lives an average three to five years in the wild. Captive pigeons generally live up to 15 years, but some have been known to live for up to 35 years. They grow to be about 11-13 inches in length with a wingspan of 20-24 inches.

Physical Description

Feral pigeons are a generally gray bird with slightly iridescent feathers on the neck that shine pink and green in the sunlight. Colouration is varies with some individuals being white, others brownish-red, some gray, and many mixtures. The eyes are orange and shine brightly in the sunlight.

Distribution

Feral pigeons are widespread and very common throughout Europe. They are also found in Africa, North America, South America and Asia.

Habitat

Feral pigeons inhabit coastal cliffs or buildings in towns and cities.

Diet

Wild rock doves feed on seeds, but the diet of the pigeons has grown to include bread, vegetables, meat and other food discarded by humans

Behaviour

Pigeons feed on the ground in flocks or individually. They roost together in buildings or on walls or statues. When drinking, most birds take small sips and tilt their heads backwards to swallow the water. Pigeons are able to dip their bills into the water and drink continuously without having to tilt their heads back. When disturbed, a pigeon in a group will take off with a noisy clapping sound. This helps inform the other pigeons that there is danger present. If a pigeon is alone, it will respond to danger by keeping very still and trying not to be noticed. Pigeons are excellent fliers and can reach speeds of up to 50mph. They are capable of rapid dives and changes in direction and most of the time will easily out manoeuver a bird of prey such as a sparrow hawk. They are resident and do not migrate.

Reproduction

During courtship the male will follow a female around bowing his head, fanning his tail and making ‘cooing’ noises. Eventually a short dance begins with the male’s beak being held in the females. Mating occurs shortly afterward and is fairly brief. The male sits on the female’s back flapping his wings to keep balance. It may take several clumsy attempts before the male successfully mates with the female. Nests are built by the female using material collected by the male. The female lays clutches of two white eggs. Young pigeons are known as ‘squabs.’

Conservation Status

Non-native / non-protected

Voice

The call is a soft ‘coo’ sound, repeated several times.

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