What are pigeons?
Most of us know pigeons– those birds common in cities that we feed scraps of bread to. What many people don’t know is that they are the most serious bird pest associated with human habitations.
Pigeons are descendants of the European rock dove and were introduced to the U.S. as a domesticated bird. In the city, they are found in parks and on sidewalks. They roost and nest on city bridges and buildings. In rural areas, they inhabit farm yards, livestock facilities, grain elevators, and feed mills.
Pigeons generally have gray bodies, although sometimes they may also be white, tan, and black. Their heads are dark with a greenish-purplish iridescence. They average 11 inches in length and weigh around 13 ounces.
What is their behavior like?
Pigeon flocks may number up to several hundred. Small groups of pigeons will select a house or a few houses in which to roost. They then inhabit roofs, ledges, drain spouts, lofts, steeples, attics, caves, and ornate architectural features. Pigeons do not construct the typical bird’s nest. Instead, a crude platform is made of sticks, twigs, and grasses that are clumped together. The actual structure that they roost in acts as the nest while providing protection from the elements.
Pigeons are pretty much monogamous maters. The male’s role is to care for and guard the nest. The female lays one to two eggs 8 to 12 days after mating with the male. 18 days after the eggs are laid, the eggs hatch into baby pigeons. Baby pigeons are fed a regurgitated substance known as “pigeon milk.” At 4 to 6 weeks of age, young pigeons leave the nest. Breeding is a year-round activity, but is most frequent during the spring and fall months.
Pigeon populations are equal parts male and female. In the wild, pigeons can live for up to 15 years, while in the city, the typical lifespan is 3 to 4 years.
What do they eat?
Pigeons enjoy eating garbage and various other grains. Primarily, they subsist on food materials provided intentionally or unintentionally by people. Many pigeons become completely conditioned to relying on people feeding them. Adult pigeons consume 1 pound of food per week. Pigeons can survive several days without food, but need water everyday.