Feral Pigeon (Birds)






Columba livia
Feral Pigeon


• One of the first birds to be domesticated by humans, it now exploits human settlement
• Descended from a coastal pigeon, it substituted concrete for cliffs in its new urban environment
• Has thrived wherever humans have taken it, adapting easily to new countries and climates


All continents except Antarctica; introduced into North America in the 17th century; most abundant where human populations are densest


The feral pigeon owes its worldwide success to humans, yet it repays us with pollution. For many cityfolk, however, the pigeon provides a much-loved link with the natural world.


A Home from home The pigeon has given up the clifftop habitat of its ancestors for city rooftops.
A Home from home The pigeon has given up the cliff top habitat of its ancestors for city rooftops.
The feral pigeon is essentially a town bird, using buildings as artificial cliffs and people as providers of food, so it’s not surprising that the largest
populations are found in huge cities. It frequently enters subways and train-station concourses, just as its wild counterpart uses caves for nesting and roosting. City parks are favored foraging grounds.
Some pigeons live a more rural life, where barns become their homes. Others, especially those in areas (such as coasts and deserts) inhabited by the rock dove, have reverted to a truly wild existence, living with native birds on cliffs or rocky outcrops.


In a rare twist to the usual conservation story, humans are trying to protect their own environment from the mess and diseases caused by pigeons. It has become so abundant because of humans that its sheer numbers are causing concern. Most attempts at controlling the bird have failed.

Food & feeding

The pigeon will eat more or less anything offered by humans and whatever it finds in the streets. City squares, where feeding pigeons is a tradition for city folk, serve as fly-through restaurants for thousands of birds; bread is usually at the top of the menu.
Although the pigeon is largely vegetarian, some will take fat and cooked meat; many also like chocolate. Such an artificial diet lacks the calcium needed for egg production, so breeding birds will eat loose mortar on buildings for its lime content.
In rural areas, the pigeon forages for seeds, including spilt grain, and sometimes damages crops. It’s a potential health hazard when it finds its way into grain stores and contaminates cereals.


1 Searching…
The pigeon’s day begins when it leaves its roost with food on its mind. With luck, it will find a passersby — often even perching on human willing to share a sandwich. heads and shoulders.
2 Feeding…
The pigeon is often tame enough to take crumbs from the hands of kindly


After courting and mating, pigeon pairs usually nest in a roof space or on an open ledge. The male brings twigs, stems and sometimes garbage to the female, which arranges them into a flimsy platform.
The pigeon feeds its young on a liquid food made in its crop (throat pouch). Because this cropmilk is nutritious, the young, unlike plant-eating birds, don’t need insects for protein. As a result, the pigeon can breed year ’round and not simply in insect-rich months.
The young pigeon (squab) pushes its wide, soft bill into an adult’s throat for the milk. As the squab grows, its downy coat is replaced by feathers; its bill hardens and shortens.
Reared on the roof The squabs (chicks) are reared by both parents.
Reared on the roof The squabs (chicks) are reared by both parents.tmp9392_thumb
3 Drinking…
A blocked drain is a welcome watering hole. The pigeon can drink by sucking, so doesn’t need to tip its head back between sips.
4 Nurturing
Refreshed, the parent returns to its nest on a ledge to feed its hungry youngsters on their special diet of cropmilk.
A Any time, anywhere The pigeon can breed any time of year and may raise a brood every two months.
A Any time, anywhere The pigeon can breed any time of year and may raise a brood every two months.
In World War II, falcons were shot in England because of fears that they would kill pigeons bringing
messages from France.
Some “fancy” pigeons bred by humans have a tiny bill and bulging forehead and can’t feed their chicks, which have to be fostered by “natural” birds.
The Romans fattened pigeons for food in special towers called columbaria.


Feral creatures are domesticated stock that—through escape, straying or deliberate release by humans—have established viable populations in freedom. Many have had to adapt to conditions far removed from their natural habitat. It’s this process of adaptation that has molded much of the behavior of the feral pigeon.
The pigeon’s success is due mainly to its affinity to humans. It was first domesticated probably in Ancient Egypt, when wild rock doves started to breed in homes and people discovered that the plump chicks made good eating. Today the pigeon has stayed where conditions suit it best, leading to large flocks in cities the world over
Buildings provide sheltered communal roosts and secure breeding sites. The pigeon’s habit of nesting in dark roof spaces mirrors its ancestors nesting in cliff holes.
Slaking a thirst
A city square fountain is a ready source of water.
 Slaking a thirst  A city square fountain is a ready source of water.


Feral Pigeon

The feral pigeon has variable plumage, having been the subject of cross-breeding programs for more than 3,000 years.
Feral Pigeon

Creature comparisons

The rock dove is the wild ancestor of pigeons and is barely distinguishable from the feral pigeon. It inhabits coasts and deserts, nesting in caves and on rocky outcrops. Larger than the feral pigeon, the woodpigeon is common
in woodland and urban areas. The Victoria crowned pigeon, forest dweller of New Guinea, is the largest of all pigeons. It’s more than 30″ long and weighs 5 lbs.
Rock dove & Feral pigeon
Rock dove
Feral pigeon
Woodpigeon & Crowned pigeon
Crowned pigeon

7-14 o,
Length 11-14″
Wingspan 23-27.5″
Sexual Maturity 6-12 months
Breeding season All year
Number of Eggs 2
Incubation Period 16-19 days
Fledging Period 35-37 days
Breeding Interval 3-6 clutches each year
Typical Diet Garbage, bread, grain and other seeds
Lifespan Up to 16 years


• Feral pigeon and wild rock dove are the same species — one of nearly 1 300 in a wide-ranging family that has no close relatives. Some pigeons are little bigger than a sparrow; others are the size of a large chicken. ! The passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, which numbered millions at the time of European settlement in North America, had been hunted into extinction for its tasty flesh by 1914.

Next post:

Previous post: