From a baby pigeon to a fully developed adult, here’s a detailed look at the life cycle of these fascinating birds.
Take a stroll up and down any High Street in the UK, and indeed, in most places worldwide, and you’ll see endless bands of pigeons pecking away at the ground in search of scraps. Although we think of them congregating in the squares, on the steps to the museum or outside romantic restaurants, pigeons are not only found in urban settings, however, but you’ll also find them in suburban locations, farmland, woodland, coastal regions, and well, pretty much all over the country.
Some people view pigeons as pests and vermin and refer to them as ‘flying rats’ yet there are plenty of others who really enjoy these birds, keep them as pets, breed them, and even race them. However you feel about pigeons, their life cycle is actually very remarkable and the more you understand about them, the more interesting they become.
Why Do We Never See A Baby Pigeon?
The majority of baby pigeons remain in their parents’ nests until they have grown all of their feathers and have reached the same size as their parents.
Hearing such gentle cooing noises makes it simple to visualize why young pigeons would choose to remain in their nest rather than venture out into the world. However, the reason for this is that they wait to fly until they are almost completely self-sufficient and the challenge of moving on with life has become somewhat less difficult.
What Are Baby Pigeons Called?
Pigeon chicks are referred to as squeakers or squabs when they are young.
Squabs are the common name given to young pigeons up until the age of four weeks. They are ready to take their first flight by the time they are 4 weeks old, and they will be almost as large as a fully grown pigeon by that time (this is why you never see baby pigeons).
What Happens To Baby Pigeons When They Leave The Nest?
There is no need to be concerned because young pigeons mature extremely rapidly! The period of time that passes between the point at which they emerge from their eggs to the point at which they leave their nest is typically less than four weeks. Once they have left the nest, the young birds never return to the same one again.
What Do You Do When You See A Baby Pigeon?
It is typical to find fledglings walking around on the ground since they leave the nest shortly before they are able to fly when they have all or the majority of their feathers. Keep your pets away from them, and if you can, leave the fledgling alone while you keep an eye on it. The fledgling’s parents are often nearby and will feed them.
Before we can take a look at where a baby pigeon comes from, first let’s look at how pigeons mate. Pigeons often mate for life, unless they cannot produce eggs, then they will go their separate ways and look for a mate that can.
To begin with, as is always the way, the males begin the process by strutting and preening for the females. It’s the equivalent of a guy getting dressed up smart to hit the clubs, or flexing and showing off his muscles in the gym in front of a woman he has his eyes on.
If the female is interested, she will return his affection and they will couple up and head off to reproduce. Often, when male pigeons are ready to mate, they will jump onto the female pigeon’s back.
Usually, pigeons can breed all year long, though the autumn and spring months are when reproduction rates are at their highest.
Building A Nest
If a pair of pigeons do wish to mate, a nest is very important. This is where the pigeons will seek shelter, and it is where the eggs will be incubated and kept safe before they hatch.
As far as nesting goes, when the male is ready to nest with a female, he will present her with a single twig or branch which will then be used to begin building the nest.
As time goes by, the male will bring twigs, sticks, leaves, and various other materials to the female, who will then keep building and fortifying the nest.
Unlike other species of bird, pigeons will reuse the same nest over and over again to hatch multiple broods of baby pigeons. In a particularly grim finding, experts have found that pigeons will even use old eggshells and the bodies of dead hatchlings to strengthen and reinforce their nests. Yuck!
Laying The Eggs
Once mating has taken place and the female has spent a couple of days in the nest, the first egg will be laid. At around 44 hours later, the next egg will be laid. Typically, two is the magic number of eggs here, though some pigeon broods can include three eggs, and some just one.
Typically, pigeon eggs are small and white in colour, though in warmer weather and warmer climes, darker eggs offer greater UV protection from the sun’s rays.
Once the eggs have been laid, they will be incubated for around 18 days before they begin to hatch. The 18 days is just an average, as sometimes it’s less, and sometimes more. It is, however, virtually unheard of for pigeon eggs to hatch in less than 2 weeks.
The male and the female both take turns incubating the eggs, though the mother generally spends more time sitting on the eggs than the father does.
When the pigeons aren’t incubating the eggs, they will either be resting or out searching for food.
Hatching The Eggs
Around 18 days later, the eggs will begin to hatch. How long it takes a baby pigeon to emerge from the eggs will depend on the weather and indeed, what time of day the hatching process has begun.
Once a baby pigeon is born, it will rely on its parents for a long time as it will stay in the nest for around 4 weeks, which is much longer than other bird species, which average just 2 weeks. When they are ready to leave the nest, they actually look very similar to their parents and don’t change much in appearance.
When they are first born, they’re usually covered in a thin layer of white/yellow feathers. Over the next 2 – 3 weeks, their feathers will grow and thicken, and they will turn a grey colour, just like the pigeons you see in your garden.
As mentioned, when the time comes to fly the nest, the baby pigeons will be nearly fully grown, though over the next few weeks their feathers will usually turn a darker shade of grey.
In particularly cold weather, baby pigeons may not fly the nest for around 45 days after hatching. This is usually because food is harder to find and due to the lack of daylight and warmth, the baby pigeon will develop at a slower rate.
Now, you might think that baby pigeons eat seeds, worms, and bugs, but that is not the case. Instead, the parents feed the babies with what is known as ‘crop milk’. This is basically a pre-digested mixture that they regurgitate from their crop (a section of the lower esophagus), into the crop of their baby.
Baby pigeons can also be fed with puppy biscuits that have been soaked in water to form a thick paste.
Baby pigeons should NOT be given milk or dairy as this can make them very sick. They should also be kept warm when they eat, otherwise, their bodies are unable to adequately digest their food.
Finally, the not-so-baby pigeons are ready to fly the nest after 28 – 45 days. The pigeons aren’t on the hunt for a job or a mortgage like we would be however, instead, they’re on the hunt for food and shelter.
After around 7 months, the pigeons will have reached sexual maturity and will be on the lookout for a mate. Remember, pigeons often mate for life, though females are usually not ready to begin laying eggs until around 1 year of age. If a pigeon younger than 1-year-old lays eggs, usually it will only be 1 egg, rather than the 2 or 3 which are common with older pigeons.
When the time comes to leave the nest, the youngsters will look almost identical to grown pigeons, except for the fact that they may be a shade lighter, or a touch smaller. Pigeons can vary in size from 5 inches to 15 inches and can weigh anything from 1 pound to 5 pounds.
Average Pigeon Lifespan
In the wild, pigeons have an average lifespan of between 5 and 7 years, though reaching 10 years of age is certainly not uncommon. Pigeons kept as pets, however, can live for as long as 15 years, though their age will depend on their diet, their surroundings, living conditions, and of course, their genetics.