Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

From a baby pigeon to a fully developed adult, here’s a detailed look at the life cycle of these fascinating birds.

Pigeons, often dubbed the feathered denizens of our urban landscapes, have seamlessly integrated into both bustling cities and serene countrysides across the globe.

These birds, with their iridescent plumage and cooing calls, are a familiar sight in town squares, parks, and coastal regions. Yet, for all their ubiquity, there remains an enigmatic aspect to their existence: the elusive baby pigeon.

While adult pigeons are a common sight, their fledglings remain a mystery to many. This article delves into the captivating life cycle of pigeons, shedding light on the seldom-seen early stages of their lives and unravelling the intricacies of their development.

From the moment an egg is laid to the fledgling’s first flight, join us on this enlightening journey through the incredible life of a pigeon.

Why We Rarely See Baby Pigeons

Baby pigeons, despite being one of the most recognisable birds in our urban environments, have managed to keep a part of their life quite secretive: their young ones, baby pigeons.

Have you ever wondered why you’ve never stumbled upon a baby pigeon during your daily walks or while lounging in the park? The answer lies in their unique nesting and rearing habits, which also apply to baby pigeons.

Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

Nesting Habits of Pigeons and Baby Pigeons

Pigeons prefer to build their nests in concealed, safe locations away from potential predators and prying eyes, including those of baby pigeons.

Common nesting sites for pigeons, and consequently baby pigeons, include ledges, building eaves, and other hidden nooks in urban areas. In natural settings, they might choose cliffs or dense tree canopies for baby pigeons.

These discreet locations ensure that baby pigeons, also known as squabs, remain protected during their vulnerable early days.

Rapid Growth of Squabs – Baby Pigeons

Another fascinating aspect of baby pigeons, or squabs, is their rapid growth rate. Squabs are born altricial, meaning they are blind, featherless, and entirely dependent on their parents, just like baby pigeons.

However, within a mere month, these squabs, or baby pigeons, undergo a remarkable transformation. They develop a full coat of feathers and grow nearly to the size of an adult pigeon.

This rapid development means that by the time they’re ready to leave the nest, they resemble their adult counterparts, making it difficult for the casual observer to distinguish between a young pigeon and an adult, including baby pigeons.

In essence, the combination of hidden nesting sites and the swift growth of baby pigeons, or squabs, means that the chances of spotting a squab in its early stages are quite slim. It’s only when they’re nearly mature and ready to venture out into the world that we get a glimpse of the next generation of these ubiquitous birds, baby pigeons.

The Life Cycle of a Pigeon: A Detailed Look

The life of a pigeon, from the moment of conception to its mature state, is a captivating journey filled with various stages, each with its unique characteristics and challenges.

Let’s delve deeper into this journey, exploring each phase in detail.

From Egg to Hatchling

Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

Pigeons typically lay one to two eggs per clutch. These eggs, which are white and oval-shaped, are incubated by both parents in turns. The incubation period lasts for about 17 to 19 days. During this time, the parents take great care to ensure the eggs are kept at an optimal temperature, often swapping roles to feed and rest.

Once the incubation period is over, the eggs hatch to reveal squabs. These baby pigeons are born altricial, which means they are blind, almost featherless, and entirely reliant on their parents for sustenance.

The Diet of a Baby Pigeon: Crop Milk and Beyond

In the initial days after hatching, squabs feed on a special secretion known as ‘crop milk’. This isn’t milk in the traditional sense but is a nutrient-rich substance produced in the crops of both parent pigeons. Crop milk is packed with proteins and fats, essential for the rapid growth of the squabs.

As days progress, the diet of the squabs begins to change. By the end of the first week, seeds and grains are introduced, gradually replacing the crop milk. By the time they are ready to fledge, or take their first flight, squabs are typically consuming the same diet as adult pigeons.

Growth and Development: The Journey to Adulthood

The growth trajectory of squabs is nothing short of remarkable. Within the span of a month, they transform from being entirely dependent on their parents to almost self-sufficient birds ready to explore the world. Their feathers begin to grow, covering their bodies and preparing them for flight. Their eyesight sharpens, and they start to exhibit behaviours characteristic of adult pigeons.

By the end of the fourth week, most squabs are ready to leave the nest. Their first flight is a significant milestone, marking their transition from a fledgling to a juvenile pigeon. Over the subsequent months, they continue to mature, reaching sexual maturity by the age of six to seven months.

Pigeon Habitats: Urban vs. Wild

Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

Pigeons, with their remarkable adaptability, have made a home for themselves in a diverse range of habitats.

From the bustling streets of London to the serene cliffs of Dover, pigeons have showcased an incredible ability to thrive in varied environments.

Let’s explore the differences and similarities between the habitats of urban and wild pigeons.

Urban Pigeons: Masters of City Living

Urban pigeons, often referred to as ‘rock doves’, have become an integral part of city landscapes. These birds have:

  • Adapted to Human Presence: Unlike many other bird species, pigeons aren’t easily startled by human activity. They’ve grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life, often seen perched on building ledges or foraging for food in public squares.
  • Leveraged Architectural Structures: Buildings, bridges, and monuments provide ample nesting opportunities for pigeons. The nooks and crannies of these structures mimic the natural cliffs and ledges pigeons would use in the wild.
  • Benefited from Human Generosity: Many urban pigeons rely on food provided by humans, whether it’s intentional feeding by bird enthusiasts or scavenging leftovers.

Wild Pigeons: Navigating Natural Landscapes

In contrast to their urban counterparts, wild pigeons navigate a different set of challenges and advantages:

  • Natural Predators: In the wild, pigeons have to be wary of predators such as birds of prey. Their keen sense of sight and swift flight are essential survival tools.
  • Varied Diet: Wild pigeons have a more varied diet, foraging for seeds, fruits, and occasionally insects. This diet is more in line with their natural eating habits before urbanisation.
  • Nesting Challenges: Without the convenience of man-made structures, wild pigeons often nest on cliff edges or in dense trees, offering protection from the elements and predators.

Commonalities Between Urban and Wild Pigeons

Despite the differences in their habitats, certain traits and behaviours are consistent across both urban and wild pigeons:

  • Mating for Life: Pigeons, irrespective of their habitat, are monogamous and often mate for life. This behaviour ensures a stable environment for raising their young.
  • Strong Homing Instinct: Both urban and wild pigeons possess a strong homing instinct, allowing them to find their way back to their nests from considerable distances.

Fun Facts About Pigeons

Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

Pigeons, while often seen as commonplace residents of our cities, have a rich history and a plethora of fascinating traits that many might not be aware of.

Let’s dive into some intriguing facts about these feathered creatures that showcase their uniqueness and importance.

A Bird with Many Talents

  • Messengers in Wars: Pigeons have played crucial roles in history, especially during wars. Their impeccable sense of direction made them invaluable as messengers. In fact, during World War I and II, pigeons carried vital messages across enemy lines, saving countless lives.
  • Pigeon Racing: This is a sport where pigeons are trained to return to their homes from a set distance away. The bird that returns in the shortest time frame wins. Pigeon racing has a dedicated following and can even involve significant prize money.

Not Just Your Average Bird

  • Incredible Homing Instinct: Pigeons possess a remarkable ability to find their way home, even from distances as far as 1,300 miles away. Scientists believe they use a combination of the Earth’s magnetic fields, the sun, and landmarks to navigate.
  • Pigeons Can Recognise Themselves: In scientific tests, pigeons have demonstrated the ability to recognise their reflection in a mirror, indicating a level of self-awareness.

Historical Significance

Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon
  • Cher Ami: One of the most famous pigeons in history, Cher Ami, saved nearly 200 soldiers during World War I by delivering a crucial message despite being injured.
  • Pigeons in Religion: In various cultures and religions, pigeons have been seen as symbols of peace, love, and fidelity. Their presence is often considered auspicious.

A Bird of Many Colours

  • Variety of Breeds: There are over 300 different breeds of pigeons, ranging in various sizes, shapes, and colours. From the elegant White Dove to the unique Jacobin pigeon with its feathered hood, the diversity is astounding.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Pigeons, despite their widespread presence, are often subjects of myths and misconceptions.

Some of these tales have been passed down through generations, while others are more recent fabrications.

Let’s address and debunk some of the most common myths surrounding these fascinating birds.

Myth 1: Pigeons are Dirty and Spread Diseases

  • Fact: Pigeons are as clean as any other bird. They often preen and groom themselves to keep their feathers in top condition. While they can carry diseases, as any animal or bird can, the risk of transmission to humans is minimal. Proper hygiene and not handling wild pigeons can further reduce this risk.

Myth 2: Pigeons are Not Intelligent

  • Fact: Pigeons are highly intelligent birds. They have been shown to recognise themselves in mirrors, can be trained to perform tasks, and even differentiate between paintings by different artists! Their cognitive abilities are often underestimated.

Myth 3: Baby Pigeons Don’t Exist

  • Fact: This myth stems from the fact that baby pigeons, or squabs, are rarely seen in public. As discussed earlier, squabs stay in their nests until they are nearly the size of adults. By the time they venture out, they are often mistaken for adult pigeons.

Myth 4: Pigeons are Non-Native Pests

  • Fact: While pigeons have indeed adapted well to urban environments worldwide, they are not invasive everywhere. The rock pigeon, commonly seen in cities, originates from Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. However, they have coexisted with humans for thousands of years, often being domesticated or used for various purposes.

Myth 5: All Pigeons Look the Same

  • Fact: There’s a vast diversity among pigeon breeds. While the blue-grey pigeon is the most commonly recognised, there are over 300 breeds, each with unique appearances, sizes, and colours.


Baby Pigeon – The Incredible Life Cycle Of A Pigeon

Baby pigeons, often seen gracefully soaring above our cities or pecking at crumbs in town squares, are baby pigeons of remarkable adaptability and intrigue. Their life cycle, from the concealed stages of squabs, which are baby pigeons, to their maturity as the familiar birds we recognise, is a testament to nature’s wonders. Through this exploration of their life, habits, and the myths surrounding baby pigeons, we’ve gained a deeper appreciation for these feathered denizens.

Their presence in our urban landscapes is not just a testament to their adaptability but also a reminder of the intricate bond they share with humans. From being revered in ancient cultures to playing pivotal roles in historical events, baby pigeons have been intertwined with human history for millennia.

As we conclude this journey through the incredible life of a pigeon, it’s essential to recognize and appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world around us, including baby pigeons. Baby pigeons, with their captivating life cycle, serve as a reminder that even the most common sights in our daily lives, like baby pigeons, hold profound stories waiting to be discovered.


In our exploration of the life and significance of pigeons, several questions often arise.

Here, we address some of the most frequently asked questions about these fascinating birds.

Why do pigeons bob their heads when they walk?

  • Answer: Pigeons, like many birds, bob their heads as a part of their walking mechanism. This head-bobbing helps them stabilise their vision and provides them with depth perception. When a pigeon takes a step forward, its head remains momentarily stationary, allowing it to gauge its surroundings before moving its head forward again.

Are pigeons and doves the same?

  • Answer: While the terms “pigeon” and “dove” are often used interchangeably, they refer to different birds within the same bird family, Columbidae. The primary distinction often lies in size, with doves being smaller than pigeons. However, the lines can blur, as some smaller pigeon species are also referred to as doves.

How long do pigeons live?

  • Answer: In the wild, pigeons have an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years. However, in more protected environments or when domesticated, they can live up to 15 years or more.

Why are pigeons commonly found in cities?

  • Answer: Pigeons have adapted exceptionally well to urban environments. Cities offer them ample food sources, fewer natural predators, and plenty of nesting sites, such as building ledges, which mimic the cliffs and ledges they’d use in the wild.

Do pigeons have a sense of direction?

  • Answer: Yes, pigeons have an incredible homing instinct. They can find their way back to their nests from vast distances. This ability is believed to be due to a combination of visual, magnetic, and olfactory cues.


To ensure the accuracy and credibility of this article, we’ve consulted a range of expert sources and studies.

Here are the references that have informed our exploration of the life and significance of pigeons:

  1. Levi, W. M. (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co.
  2. Gibbs, D., Barnes, E., & Cox, J. (2001). Pigeons and Doves: A Guide to the Pigeons and Doves of the World. Sussex: Pica Press.
  3. Johnston, R. F., & Janiga, M. (1995). Feral Pigeons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Shapiro, M. D., & Domyan, E. T. (2013). Domestic pigeons. Current Biology, 23(8), R302-R303.
  5. Vriends, M. M. (2005). Pigeons: Everything About Purchase, Care, Management, Diet, Disease, and Behavior. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron’s.
  6. National Geographic. (2014). Pigeon Fact Sheet. Retrieved from National Geographic Website.
  7. RSPB. (2020). Pigeon Profile. Retrieved from RSPB Website.
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