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.