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Feral Pigeon
Life Cycle & Description

Description of Feral Pigeon
(Columba livia var.)


The feral pigeon is found almost exclusively in areas of human habitation. Common bird pest species living in towns and well populated and built up areas.

Average weight - 230 - 560g 
Average length - 32
 - 37 cm
Sexually mature - 28 - 30 weeks
Average litter size - 2 eggs laid / 2 - 4 broods per year
Weaning period - 30 -35 days
Average lifespan - 3 - 5 years

64-72 cm wingspan
Dark bluish-grey head, neck and chest with glossy greenish and reddish-purple iridescence around the neck and wing feathers
Orange or red iris with pale inner ring (adult) or brown or greyish brown (juveniles)
Black bill with off-white cere
Red feet and legs
Distinctive twin black wing bars
White lower back feathers



Breeds all year round with peak breeding periods in spring and summer
All columbiformes are monogamous (mate for life)
Wild birds breed on coastal cliffs and some inland cliffs
Feral birds breed on or in buildings, usually in urban areas
Flimsy nest built on rocky shelf (wild) or accessible ledge on a building or in the roof void of a building (feral)
Two white eggs that are incubated by both parents for 17-19 days
The squab (chick) has yellow down and a pink bill
Squabs are fed on ‘crop milk’ by both parents
Fledging period is approximately 30 days depending on time of year
Pigeons can breed at 6 months of age



Seeds form the major component of the diet, but it varies greatly according to species. Some ground feeding species (granivorous species) eat fruit and take insects and worms. One species, the Atoll Fruit Dove, has adapted to taking insects and small reptiles. The feral pigeon found in urban areas exists exclusively on a diet of seed (normally from human sources) and human refuse, such as fast food waste. Wood pigeons have a varied diet which includes vegetables and berries.



The wild pigeon is predated upon, almost exclusively, by the peregrine falcon, a bird that is also found living and breeding in coastal regions. The sparrowhawk may also predate on the wild pigeon. The feral pigeon has few if any natural predators, with man being the main threat to the bird in areas of human habitation.


Characteristics and Attributes

Pigeons can fly at altitudes of 6000 feet or more..
Pigeons can fly at average speeds of up to 77.6 mph but have been recorded flying at 92.5 mph.
Pigeons can fly between 600 and 700 miles in a single day, with the longest recorded flight in the 19th century taking 55 days between Africa and England and covering 7000 miles.
Pigeons are thought to navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic field and using the sun for direction. Other theories include the use of roads and even low frequency seismic waves to find their way home.
Pigeons (and all the columbidae family) drink by sucking water and using their beaks like straws. Most birds sip water and then throw their head back to swallow.
Pigeons, like
humans, can see in colour, but unlike humans they can also see ultraviolet light, a part of the spectrum that humans cannot see. As a result, pigeons are often used in search and rescue missions at sea because of this unique sense combined with excellent all-round vision.
Pigeons have been found to pass the ‘mirror test’, the ability to recognise its own reflection in a mirror. The pigeon is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, to have this ability.
Pigeons are highly intelligent and can recognise all 26 letters of the alphabet as well as being able to conceptualise.

Pigeons can differentiate between photographs and even two different human beings in a single photograph.

Bird deterrent systems, good hygiene, remove food sources, proofing.

Distribution and Habitat

Feral pigeons are now found in towns and cities all over the world. They may also be found in rural situations e.g. associated with farm buildings. Their dependence on humans for food has led to them becoming a serious pest.


The feral pigeon is descended from domesticated strains of the rock dove and the wild breeding population is supplemented by escapees from pigeon lofts and racing pigeons. They have adapted extremely well to life in an urban environment.

Feral pigeons build their nests in sheltered, protected sites on buildings and other structures. Large numbers of nests are often found under bridges or eves and in derelict buildings. The lofts of houses and commercial premises, where birds have gained access via gaps in the roof, are also common breeding sites. Both sexes take part in nest building. The nests are usually flimsy, crude structures constructed from a wide variety of materials, such as twigs, grass, feathers, plastic items, wire etc. When used for successive broods, the nests may become well defined structures often with a considerable thickness of droppings.


If conditions are favourable the birds will breed throughout the year, having up to seven broods, but the main breeding period is March – July. About 40 % of birds are in breeding condition at any one time. Two white eggs are laid and are incubated by both sexes for 17–19 days. The young squabs are initially fed with a protein rich secretion, but this is quickly replaced by regurgitated predigested food. Young birds are independent at 30 – 37 days, more eggs can be laid before the previous young leave the nest. About 20 % of eggs develop through to mature adults. The natural instinct is to stay near their birth site. They can start to breed at six months and will live up to four years in the wild. They are monogamous, but will select a new mate upon the death of their current mate.

Pigeons in town centres rely on food scraps, spillage and feeding by members of the public. Spillage where grain is loaded and unloaded, at places such as docks and mills, provides food. In some areas pigeons will fly to nearby arable farmland during the spring and autumn to feed on sowings and stubble. Each bird eats about 60g per day, and produces about 12kg of droppings per year. Pigeons are very efficient at finding food. Initially they are very cautious when feeding at a new site and are easily disturbed, but confidence quickly increases if there is no interference with their normal feeding routine.

Pigeons feed in flocks with a distinct territory. They have been found to range over 151 hectares (1.7 square miles). Flock sizes usually vary from 50 to 400, but can be larger if food is available, and are in balance with the availability of food within the territory. Individuals associating to feed can disperse to separate roosting sites, which might contain birds from different feeding flocks.

Within a flock there is a distinct social order; the dominant birds feed first and get the best breeding sites. Lower ranking birds are under more pressure to find food and harbourage and will have a lower survival rate. There is some interchange of birds between stable neighbouring flocks. If birds are removed from a flock, competition is reduced and the vacuum created makes the area more attractive to lower ranking birds from adjacent flocks where competition is more intense.


Food is the most important factor determining the size of a pigeon population and the best long-term solution to pigeon problems is to restrict food availability. An important adjunct therefore to using any method of control or preventative device is to ensure that spillage, or other food that might become available to the birds, is efficiently cleared or covered up, and public feeding of the birds discouraged.


There are a wide variety of proofing systems and installation techniques available. The main systems are: spikes, nets, weldmesh, sprung wire, and Avi-Shock. It is essential to select the right option for each situation. The selection will depend upon what structure the infestation is on or in, and "pressure" of the infestation.

Please visit our dedicated Bird Control page for more information on our bird proofing and bird deterrent systems.


Tactile scaring using an electric ledge deterrent is very effective at deterring pigeons from settling on protected areas. It will work for any pressure of infestation.

Visual and audio scaring does not seem to be a realistic option in the majority of pigeon infestations. Pigeons appear to habituate quickly to new, consistent objects or sounds in their environment. There are scaring devices that have pigeon distress calls on them, but the success of these is likely to be limited unless they are very well managed and used in conjunction with other scaring techniques. Predator birds flown very regularly can be useful.




Dispatching can be an option in some circumstances e.g. shooting of individual birds that have entered a factory, or are persistently overcoming proofing. When reducing pigeon numbers in a flock, the population soon recovers due to their ongoing fast reproduction and through immigration from other flocks. Control of food in an area is really the critical factor in determining a population size.


If your having issues with Pigeons or Gulls or any other pest related problem within your commercial or domestic property then please feel free to contact us on 01282 777549 or email us at for an immediate response.

We are the leading service provider for bird control services in Burnley and Lancashire!

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