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Pigeon Facts

     Pigeons have been around for a long time – long before humans.  They originated several million years ago in Asia.  Pigeons range throughout all of the United States and most of Canada and are found in almost all metropolitan areas.  Pigeons have long been kept and raised in captivity.  The common pigeon was imported by early settlers as food animals and to serve as carriers of messages.  They were originally called "rock doves" and are closely related to doves.

     Pigeons are gregarious and tend to be found in small flocks of around twenty to thirty birds.  Seeds and grains make up the bulk of their diet, but they are willing to sample just about anything.

     A pigeon nest is usually constructed with small twigs and located on covered building ledges that resemble cliffs, a Rock Dove’s natural habitat.  The male brings the nesting material to his mate, one piece at a time and she builds the nest, usually well-hidden and hard to find.

     Pigeons reproduce throughout the year, even during winter, and can raise four or five broods annually. The female usually lays two white eggs. Both parents take turns keeping the eggs warm.  Males usually stay on the nest during the day; females at night.  Incubation takes about 16 to 19 days and the young are fed crop milk for about the first two weeks. (Crop milk is a specially produced secretion that both parents produce from the lining of the crop, a sac-like food storage chamber that projects outward from the bottom of the esophagus).   Eventually seeds replace the crop milk.

     There are as many as 28 pigeon color types.  Pigeons have colorful, iridescent neck feathers which are called a "hackle."  Adult males and females look alike, but a male’s hackle is more iridescent than a female’s.  Pigeons that are all white are usually albinos.  These white "doves" are frequently released during ceremonies to symbolize love and peace.

     Pigeons have many types of feathers, some of which are accompanied by one or two filoplume feathers that look like hairs.  These filoplumes may have sensory functions, such as detecting touch and pressure changes.

     Adults have orange or reddish orange eyes.  Juveniles that are less than six to eight months old have medium brown or grayish brown eyes.   Pigeon eyesight is excellent.  Like humans, pigeons can see color, but they also can see ultraviolet light – part of the light spectrum that humans can’t see.  Pigeons are sometimes used in human search-and-rescue missions because of their exceptional vision.

     Pigeons can hear sounds at much lower frequencies than humans can, such as wind blowing across buildings and mountains, distant thunderstorms and even far-away volcanoes.  Sensitive hearing may explain why pigeons sometimes fly away for no apparent reason.

     Pigeons have a unique drinking behavior.  Most birds take a sip of water and throw back their heads to let the water trickle down their throats.   But pigeons suck up water, using their beaks like straws.

     Pigeons can fly up to 40 or 50 miles per hour and may fly as far as 600 miles a day.  They seem to be able to detect the Earth’s magnetic fields.  This magnetic sensitivity, along with the ability to tell direction by sun, seems to help pigeons find their way home.

     Although pigeons are considered by many to be dirty and disease-ridden, there is little evidence linking pigeons directly to infections in humans.

Problems and Solutions

     To some, pigeons are a visual and aesthetic problem.  To others, they are only a problem when present in great numbers or when roosting on buildings or under bridges.  Their droppings can disfigure buildings if left to accumulate due, probably to their acidic nature.  However, pigeons do little if any actual structural damage to buildings.

     To those for whom pigeons are an irritant or eyesore, remember that they are one of the few animals that will tolerate the environmental conditions humans impose on the inner city.  They have just as much right to be here as we do.   They are just trying to survive.

     One of the keys to controlling excess numbers of pigeons is to limit the amount of feeding done by humans.  Feeding should be done in moderation and not at the same time each day.  When excess feeding has been done, be sure that there is a gradual reduction over a period of several weeks to a reasonable baseline amount of food.

     Pigeons prefer to perch on flat surfaces which they need to nest.  Nests are usually built under shelter.  Wood or metal sheathing can be installed on a ledge at an angle that denies pigeons the opportunity to use that surface.   An angle of at least 45 degrees is needed, and 60 degrees is required to ensure that even the most determined attempt to land will be rebuffed.  There are a number of bird management systems such as bird wires and bird coils that are commercially available.  One company that sells such systems is

Birdmaster International Bird Control Systems, Inc.
32 Cummings Park
Woburn, MA 01801
Tel.# 1-800-562-2473

     Bird wires will exclude pigeons from ledges, railings, awnings, and rooftops.  In many situations, a single strand of galvanized or stainless steel wire (18 to 20 gauge) strung 3 to 4 inches above a railing or ledge will prevent pigeons from landing.  The lines are anchored to eyelet screws and are kept taut by support posts placed every few feet or so.  Small springs can be used to help maintain tension.

     Homemade or commercial scarecrows are often used to attempt to frighten pigeons.  The types that move are more successful but pigeons quickly accommodate to any type of scarecrow used against them.

For more information on pigeons,
or to participate in
Project Pigeon Watch
visit their site by clicking on the above link

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