Why Don’t We See Baby Pigeons?
It’s an interesting question, and after some research, the answer makes perfect sense. The reason we don’t see baby pigeons is because the babies stay in the nest for more than 40 days, which is twice as long as most garden birds. So once the fledglings do appear, they are the same size as the adult birds.
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Milk Fed Babies
The chicks are fed on a regurgitated pigeon milk which is a secretion that comes from the lining of the crop of the parents. It is common among all pigeons and doves and some other birds including flamingoes when it is then called “crop milk”. This milk is full of fat and protein so when the squabs finally leave the nest they are fully grown pigeons. It’s good stuff, the baby pigeons double in size daily while being fed this “crop milk”. These young adults look almost the same as their parents.
The young pigeons are lacking the shiny purples and greens around their necks that the adults have. Plus the wattle type growth on top of the bill is a grey-pink rather than the parents which is bright white.
What Does A Baby Pigeon Look Like?
The newly hatched baby pigeon looks almost alien-like, with its pinkish brown skin, pink beak, and a fuzz that can be yellow or white, that eventually turns into feathers. The baby’s wings, feet and beak are completely disproportionate to the size of its body, but it will grow into them with the help of the crop milk. As it grows and the feathers start appearing the baby begins to look like its parents. Once it’s around 2 weeks old it will be getting its feathers and they will be changing colour.
We Do See Baby Pigeons (Sort Of)
As baby pigeons spend the longest time of any bird in the nest (40 days) feeding on their parents’ milk (sort of), and as they are still juveniles once they leave the nest (even if they are nearly full grown), then we do see baby (or young) pigeons. Baby pigeons share their
nickname – squab with baby doves (which are of the same family) and baby chickens.
Where Do Pigeons Nest?
Pigeons are descendants of Rock Doves and as the name implies, rock doves nest in high, rocky cliffs and caves. The urban pigeon nests in the town or city’s answer to a cliff, a roof top or a ledge under a bridge, or the town’s answer to a cave, an abandoned attic. They prefer flat surfaces but they must be high. That’s why we don’t often see a pigeon’s nest or the baby pigeons inside.
Wild Rock Doves
Wild rock doves are essentially where our pigeons originated. Rock doves are the ancestors of all pigeons, wood pigeons and urban or feral pigeons. If you would like to see wild rock pigeons in the UK, you’d have to travel to coastal areas of either Scotland or Northern Ireland. But as they are so similar to the feral pigeon that is found everywhere there’s little point in travelling too far.
“Rats With Wings”
Way back in the year 2000 the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone was so fed up with having to budget for the cleaning of statues and other tourist sites and landmarks around the capital city, that he waged war on the massive pigeon population. In one interview at the time he called them “rats with wings” and he concentrated his efforts to try to get them removed from Trafalgar Square, a popular London landmark.
An opposition group was set up called the Save The Trafalgar Square Pigeons (STTSP). They claimed to oppose cruelty to all wild birds, but especially the pigeons around Trafalgar Square. Livingstone stopped the bird seed sellers from operating in the square and even introduced a Harris’s Hawk (which is a bird of prey also known as the Bay-winged hawk or Dusky hawk) to bring down the number of pigeons. The number of pigeons was reduced from 4000 to 200 and a bye-law was passed making it illegal to feed the birds in and around Trafalgar Square with fines of up to £500 if caught breaking that law.
Why Don’t We See Any Baby Garden Birds?
It’s not only pigeons babies we don’t see, all of the common garden bird’s babies are also hidden from view until they are ready to fledge. It’s so the parents can keep them safe until they are ready to fend for themselves. Apart from ducks and geese who get their babies out of the nest within 2 days of being hatched and get them swimming.
How To Identify A Feral Pigeon
If you are a UK resident you probably already know what a pigeon looks like but as they are similar to some other bird species here’s how to be sure it’s a pigeon. Pigeons are a blue-grey colour with a darker head, two black stripes or bands on their wings, a black tail and purple/green throat feathers. They range in length from 32 to 37 cm (12.5 to 14.5 inches) and have a wingspan of 64 to 72 cm ( 25 to 28 inches).
The eyes are red or orange with a pale inner circle in adults or a brown inner circle in juveniles. Pigeons have red legs and feet, a black bill with a white cere and white lower back feathers.
Birds Of A Feather
They are often to be seen in flocks, all pecking at the ground in search of food, and when spooked, they take off as one and circle the area several times before coming back to continue their pecking.
Interesting Facts about Pigeons
Did You Know?
- Pigeons were used in WWI as couriers to send messages from the front line back to the head quarters
- In WWII minesweepers – boats that checked the oceans for mines carried pigeons so if they were torpedoed the birds could be released to provide the exact location of the crew.
- Pigeons can fly for between 600 to 700 miles per day.
- One pigeon flew from Africa to England in 55 days and covered a distance of 7,000 miles.
- Pigeons drink by using their beak as a straw, they suck up the water and then tilt their heads backwards to swallow.
- Pigeons have been known to recognise all 26 letters of the alphabet
- Pigeons recognise human faces
- Like all birds, pigeons can not only see in colour, but they can also see in ultraViolet colours.
- Pigeons have been used to carry messages since 2500 BC
- Pigeons were used as a messaging service up until 2006 by the Indian police force
- Pigeon poo was used as an ingredient in gunpowder
- Organised pigeon shoots were started in the 1700s, with huge numbers released and shot at close range
- Pigeons are still used for racing, they are called homing pigeons and are trained to find their way home from a previously agreed release point with many others
- Good racing pigeons have been sold for as much as £65,000
- Pigeons have been used by the search and rescue organisations to find lost seamen
- Both the Romans and the Greeks used pigeons for sending messages
- There is a breed of pigeon known as the “Arabian Laughter” that is said to have been introduced by Mohammed and is still bred to this day
- Pigeons can fly as high as 6,000 feet
- During WWI a pigeon called “Cher Ami” was awarded 2 medals for bravery by the US army with many more being awarded medals in both wars
- Pigeons are now considered to be pests and the carriers of diseases, but up until the early 20th century they were farmed for their meat.
- Pigeons have been bred for their looks since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, with Socrates (who died in the year 399 BC ) discussing the cross-breeding of pigeons
- The Royal Pigeon Racing Association holds an annual show in the seaside town of Blackpool which attracts over 25,000 visitors every year.
Other UK Birds Related To The Pigeon
We already mentioned the Rock dove but there are many other British birds related to the pigeon and they include:
- The Wood Pigeon
- The Turtle Dove
- The Collared Dove
- The Stock Dove
Stretching further afield, geneticists claim that the pigeon is also related to the Flamingo, but not the chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
You never see baby pigeons because they are nearly full grown when they leave the nest. They spend twice as long in the nest as other garden birds.
Baby pigeons are rare because they don’t leave the nest until they are fully grown.
The lifespan of a pigeon is very much dependent on where it lives, in the wild pigeons tend to live between 3 to 6 years, but in captivity some have lived up to 10 or even 15 years.
Pigeons sleep on roofs of houses and other buildings, they look for safety – away from any predators, and shelter from the weather.
Pigeons are actually very clean birds. Mankind and pigeons have lived alongside each other for millenia.
Pigeons do often use the same nest, they just add fresh nesting material on top of the stuff they have used before.
This depends on your point of view, some people consider pigeons to be vermin, but others know they are highly intelligent birds.
Pigeons lift their wings in the rain, to clean their feathers. They then preen themselves in order to fly better.