Understanding the feral pigeon and its behaviour

The pigeon is the most common wild bird in our cities and towns. Loved and hated in equal measure, the feral pigeon has thrived in our urban areas where our buildings mimic the cliff faces pigeons historically roosted on.

The humble pigeon originated in Europe, North Africa and Asia. However, it can now be found in most corners of the world, the exceptions being the Sahara Desert, where it's far too hot, and Antarctica, where it's far too cold. The feral pigeon is the most common variety and is the bird you have probably seen bobbing about our towns and city centres.

Naturally, pigeons should feast on grains and seeds, with some species eating small insects and fruit. However, an increase in urban areas means they now rely mainly on humans to feed them, either by choice or indirectly by the food they leave behind.

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Pigeons nesting and roosting on bridge

Fun Facts About Pigeons

This plentiful food source provides all the sustenance the birds require for growth, health and good conditioning. With a regular food supply pigeons can live as long as 15 years. Although the wild pigeon does have natural predators such as sparrowhawks and falcons, the cause of early death in urban pigeons is far more likely to be humans as we try to control their ever increasing population.

As a species, pigeons love to breed. With a good food source and ideal location, the mated pair can lay eggs up to 6 times a year. The eggs laid don't take long to incubate either, with an average time of 17-19 days to hatch.

Never underestimate the pigeon. Although they may look straggly and a bit rough around the edges, they are incredibly intelligent. They are thought to be one of only 6 species in the world to be able to recognise themselves in a mirror, as well as all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Fun Facts - Pigeon Profile

Flying high

The longest flight ever recorded was in the 19th century when the champion pigeon flew 7,000 miles over 55 days between England and Africa! Pigeons are fast flyers and can average a speed of over 60 mph with the fastest speed ever recorded being 92.5 mph.

Love birds

Pigeons are real lovers, mating for life and commonly raising two chicks at a time. They love to socialise too, often hanging out in flocks of between 50 to 500.

Internal compass

They are great navigators described as having an internal "magnetic compass", and will often use the sun or manmade landmarks and roads to guide them.

Saving lives

In WWII, 53 Dickin Medals were presented to animals displaying conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty. Out of these, 32 were awarded to pigeons for delivering vital messages from front lines and from behind enemy lines.

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