PIGEON BIOLOGY

David E. Williams Fig.1. Pigeons (Columbia livia)
State Director
USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services
Lincoln, NE 68501

Robert M. Corrigan
Staff Specialist
Vertebrate Pest Management
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Fig. 1. Pigeons, Columba livia

Identification

Pigeons (Columba livia) typically have a gray body with a whitish rump, two black bars on the secondary wing feathers, a broad black band on the tail, and red feet (Fig. 1). Body color can vary from gray to white, tan, and black. The average weight is 13 ounces (369 g) and the average length is 11 inches (28 cm). When pigeons take off, their wing tips touch, making a characteristic clicking sound. When they glide, their wings are raised at an angle.

Range

Pigeons are found throughout the United States (including Hawaii), southern Canada, and Mexico.

Habitat

Pigeons are highly dependent on humans to provide them with food and sites for roosting, loafing, and nesting. They are commonly found around farm yards, grain elevators, feed mills, parks, city buildings, bridges, and other structures.

Food Habits

Pigeons are primarily grain and seed eaters and will subsist on spilled or improperly stored grain. They also will feed on garbage, livestock manure, insects, or other food materials provided for them intentionally or unintentionally by people. In fact, in some urban areas the feeding of pigeons is considered a form of recreation. They require about 1 ounce (30 ml) of water daily. They rely mostly on free-stand-ing water but they can also use snow to obtain water.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior

The common pigeon was introduced into the United States as a domesticated bird, but many escaped and formed feral populations. The pigeon is now the most common bird pest associated with people.

Pigeons inhabit lofts, steeples, attics, caves, and ornate architectural features of buildings where openings allow for roosting, loafing, and nest building. Nests consist of sticks, twigs, and grasses clumped together to form a crude platform.

Pigeons are monogamous. Eight to 12 days after mating, the females lay 1 or 2 eggs which hatch after 18 days. The male provides nesting material and guards the female and the nest. The young are fed pigeon milk, a liquid-solid substance secreted in the crop of the adult (both male and female) that is regurgitated. The young leave the nest at 4 to 6 weeks of age. More eggs are laid before the first clutch leaves the nest. Breeding may occur at all seasons, but peak reproduction occurs in the spring and fall. A population of pigeons usually consists of equal numbers of males and females.

In captivity, pigeons commonly live up to 15 years and sometimes longer. In urban populations, however, pigeons seldom live more than 3 or 4 years. Natural mortality factors, such as predation by mammals and other birds, diseases, and stress due to lack of food and water, reduce pigeon populations by approximately 30% annually.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage Logo 1994

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

Skip Navigation Links