Trusted bird control experts at your service
Adults average about 13″ (33 cm) long; average weight about 13 oz (368 g). Stocky/robust, with a short rounded fanlike tail. Color varies from white to black but usually bluish gray with black bands, 2 narrow cross bands on each wing and a broad terminal tail band, white rump, and reddish feet, head dark and often with greenish-purplish iridescence on neck. Each of 2 legs short, bearing 1 rear-projecting and 3 forward-projecting toes.
Body and wings covered with feathers and horny bill short, lacking teeth. Voice soft, with guttural series of rolling coos.
Hatchlings (squabs) are almost featherless and are totally dependent on the parent birds for warmth and food. For the first 5 days, hatchlings are fed predigested food called “pigeon milk” that is produced in the parent’s crop.
For the next 5 days, water and grain are added to their milk, and finally they are fed only grain and water. Young pigeons usually make their first flight when about 35-37 days old, but may leave the nest when 4-6 weeks old. Several broods are reared each year with more eggs being laid before the proceeding brood is weaned.
Breeding is year round but peaks in the spring and summer. Wild pigeons often live for 15 years and captive pigeons for 30 years or more. In the urban setting, pigeons usually live for 3-4 years.
Pigeons have colour vision, a hearing range very close to that of humans, and have poorly developed senses of taste and smell. Although they cannot think, pigeons are capable of conditioned learning.
Pigeons, their nests, and droppings are of medical concern because of the over 50 diseases and ectoparasites associated with them. Diseases include encephalitis (St. Louis, eastern and western equine), histoplasmosis, Newcastle disease, chlamydiosis, and salmonellosis which can affect human and animal health, and severe cases may result in death. The ectoparasites include mites and ticks that often bite humans or infest domestic animals, causing extreme discomfort.
Other arthropods, such as dermestid beetles, clothes moths, flies, and stored product pests, associated with the nests and droppings may invade structures.
Pigeons prefer flat or smooth surfaces, such as roof tops, for feeding. They also consume enough grit to ensure proper digestion. An adult consumes about 1 lb/453 g of food per week. Feeding may occur near the nesting or roosting site(s), but often it is done some distance away.
Nests are loosely constructed and usually consist of sticks, stems, leaves, and other debris. They are built on ledges of structures or cliffs, or in caves. The abundance of cliff like nesting sites, especially on older buildings, is one of the primary factors that attract pigeons to cities.
Often nesting and roosting occur in the same general area, but they can be distant.Roosting sites are where pigeons rest or sleep. They usually involve some kind of perch that is often high off the ground, such as exposed roof girders, protected ledges, etc. Roosting sites may or may not be near nesting, feeding, or loafing areas.
Loafing is loosely defined as when pigeons are not feeding, nesting, or roosting. Loafing may occur almost anywhere pigeons are not constantly disturbed. Pigeons have very acidic droppings which can deface marble, limestone, painted surfaces, statues, car finishes, etc. Fresh droppings can cause objectionable odours and slippery situations on sidewalks, roads, fire escapes, and other flat surfaces.
Droppings, feathers, and nesting materials can contaminate unprocessed grain and packaged foods. Pigeons also have diseases, ectoparasites, and other pests associated with them as mentioned above. Although of minor importance, pigeons can be a problem around airports, especially if there is a garbage dump, railroad siding, or grain field nearby.