All you need to know about pigeons
Pigeons are a coastal bird that would once have inhabited cliff faces. Today, the pigeon, like many other birds, has learnt that humans offer the best food source. From bins to bird tables, the pigeon is a common sight. Let’s take a look at some pigeon facts and learn more about this nuisance bird.
- Genus: Pigeons and Doves
- Class: Columba
- Family: Bird, reptile
The feral domestic pigeon is the species of pigeon most pest control calls relate to. With a large population, they also flock and roost in large numbers.
Origins of the pigeon
The feral domestic (or rock) pigeon can be found in towns and cities all across the world. Some species are native to a country, but the early explorers often took different species of birds and animals with them, introducing them to new terrain. The feral domestic pigeon is known to be a mix of several different early species of pigeons that readily mated.
You can’t tell a male and female pigeon apart just by their colour. Similar in markings and colours, only a trained eye can easily determine the gender of adult pigeons. The male pigeon tends to have a thicker head and wider neck, looking more robust than a female of the same species.
The natural habitat of a pigeon is coastal cliff tops. But, with humans offering a ready food supply in the shape of waste, the ledges of buildings, including homes and city centres properties, make the perfect substitute for the cliff edges they would normally occupy.
Pigeons don’t carry diseases specific to them but like geese, starlings and house sparrows, they do carry a transmissible disease known as Histoplasmosis. This is a respiratory disease that can be fatal. It is caused by inhaling the fungus that grows on bird droppings. Hence, many people living in flats with balconies will need to take measures to keep pigeons from roosting on balconies etc. Pigeons also carry Candidiasis, a yeast or fungal infection that can be unpleasant.
In captivity a pigeon can live for up to 15 years however in the wild, a pigeon tends to live for between 3-4 years.
Evidence suggests that pigeons mate for life and although monogamy is mainly followed, extra-mates are not uncommon, something that is triggered by the male. Female pigeons produce crop milk – also known as pigeon milk – which she reproduces to feed her young. This means that pigeons can breed all year round.
Interesting pigeon facts
- The pigeon is a war hero, with many trained carrier pigeons successfully delivering 95% of mail and messages during both the First and Second World Wars. In fact, pigeons were used as messengers are far back as Roman times.
- Pigeon’s eyes on the sides of their heads mean they see differently to us and bobbing their head improves their vision. They also bob their head to attract their lifelong mate.
- If the conditions are at their optimum – great nest locations, plenty of food etc. – pigeons can mate and produce eggs up to eight times a year. The young don’t leave the nest until they are two months old and that’s why you don’t see baby pigeons around!
- The pigeon is an intelligent bird, having passed the mirror test – in other words, it can recognise its own reflection.
What to do if you have a pigeon problem
While it is useful to know some pigeon facts, it is more important to know what to do if you have a pigeon problem. This bird will flock and roost in large numbers. Their wet droppings on pavements can be slippery, as well as unsightly. Likewise, pigeon droppings on the facade of buildings slowly erode it too.
Although they don’t dive bomb like seagulls can, there is no denying that the pigeon can be a nuisance. The law stipulates that action can be taken to control their population on land but that you cannot interfere with their nests, other than for reasons stipulated under what is known as ‘general licences’. That is why you should always consult with a professional, licensed bird control professional to deal with your nuisance bird problem.