Baby Pigeons: All You Need To Know (With Pictures)

Baby Pigeons: All You Need To Know (With Pictures)

Love them or hate them, Pigeons are among the most abundant and successful bird families on the planet, with about 350 species distributed on six continents. They can be particularly common in urban and suburban areas yet we rarely see their young.

Unless you keep and breed these beautiful birds or have had the chance to observe an active nest, you probably haven’t seen many baby Pigeons in your life. However, the young birds, known as squabs, have a truly unique appearance and a fascinating upbringing!

We’ve written this guide to take some of the mystery out of baby Pigeons and give you a glimpse into the early life of these familiar birds. Read along with us to learn about the appearance, biology, and importance of baby Pigeons.

What Does a Baby Pigeon Look Like?

Baby Pigeons hatch blind and helpless, with pink or grayish skin and a sparse covering of golden down feathers. Their bill is broad and fleshy, and their external ear openings are clearly visible below their large, closed eyes.

They usually weigh around 5cm in length, and weigh around 15g, increasing their mass between 4 and 8 grams a day, reaching a weight of between 270 - 350 grams at 30 days old.

As they mature, squabs look more and more like adults, with their eyes opening and their plumage showing signs of darkening within the first week. By their third week, they are easily recognizable, although still smaller and more sparsely feathered than their parents.

The cere on juveniles and fledglings - the white growth that sits above their beaks - will be more of a pinkish-grey compared to the white colour for adults. They also tend to lack the shimmering purple and green around the neck.

Juvenile pigeons less than 8 months old have medium-brown or greyish-brown eyes, whereas adults have yellow, orange or reddish-orange. The feathers around the eyes may appear darker than those of adults as well.

Check out our Baby Pigeon video below:

Two recently hatched baby pigeons in a nest

Two recently hatched baby pigeons in a nest

The Lifecycle of a Pigeon

Pigeon Breeding Behaviors

Pigeons can breed in their first year, sometimes starting as young as six months. These birds are monogamous and form long-term pairs, although they will accept a new mate if a partner disappears.

Some species are prolific breeders, and Feral Pigeons can have as many as six broods in a year! Their special chick-feeding habits allow them to raise squabs even when food sources are limited, unlike songbirds that are limited to spring nesting.

Most pigeons breed all year round, so eggs can hatch throughout the year. On average, most pigeon chicks hatch in spring and summer, between May and June and between August and November.

The nest itself is an uninspiring structure, often including just a few twigs. To be fair, when you consider how abundant Pigeons are, they obviously know what they’re doing! Both males and females work together on nest construction, although the male’s role mostly involves collecting material.

Egg Stage

Pigeons generally lay one to three plain white eggs, with two being the norm. Regular Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove eggs hatch after about 18 days, and a day or two sooner in the case of the Woodpigeon.

The eggs may hatch on the same day or up to two days apart. The baby Pigeon uses its egg tooth to break the shell from the inside without any help from its parents, although the process can take more than 24 hours.

Pigeon eggs are small and white and have an average length of 38.4mm and a width of 28.6mm. The average weight is 14.6g. The eggshell thickness is about 0.18mm.

Growth Stages

Baby Pigeons are altricial, which means they’re relatively undeveloped when they hatch and rely on their parents for food and warmth. The young birds are nest-bound for about four weeks, during which time they will transform into fully feathered juveniles about 20 times the size of their hatching weight.

Let’s take a look at a few key milestones in their development:

  • Day 1: Baby Pigeon hatches blind and weak. It is covered in hair-like yellowish feathers

  • Day 5: Noticeably larger now, the squab’s eyes are at least partially open

  • Day 10: Prominent pin feathers may be visible on the wings, back, tail, and breast

  • Day 16: The pin feathers have opened into adult-colored plumage on many parts of the body

  • Day 21: The bird is almost completely feathered, although the feathers are not yet fully grown

  • Day 28: In warm seasons, the young bird may have developed to the point of fledging by the end of its fourth week

Fledging Process

Baby Pigeons leave the nest at about four weeks old (25-32 days). This is a very dangerous time since they are not fully capable of flight yet and make easy prey for predators.

It’s not uncommon to find fledgling Pigeons down on the ground, but they usually find their way onto a higher perch and then into the air after a day or two. They don’t go far from the nest at first, and their parents will continue to feed them for several days.

Pigeons at fledgling stage

Pigeons at fledgling stage

Why Don't You See Baby Pigeons?

Unless you breed Pigeons or stumble across a nest on a high balcony, rooftop, or in some vegetation, you’re pretty unlikely to see a baby Pigeon before it fledges.

Various pigeon conspiracy theories have been put forward to explain the lack of sightings, but the reason is actually pretty simple.

Pigeons prefer to build their nests out of sight where their eggs and babies are safer from terrestrial predators like cats and foxes. By the time the baby Pigeons leave the nest, they are similar in size and appearance to their parents, so many people don’t recognize them as fledglings.

Close up of a very young baby pigeon

Close up of a very young baby pigeon

Feeding and Nutrition for Baby Pigeons

Introduction to Pigeon Milk

Pigeons are unusual among birds in that they feed their babies milk. Unlike mammals that produce milk in the mammary glands, Pigeons produce their milk in the crop, which is a pouch-like part of their digestive system located near the throat.

Crop milk production in male and female Pigeons is stimulated by the increase of prolactin, a hormone of the endocrine system. This nutritious substance is high in protein ( about 60%) and fat (over 30%) but low in carbohydrates. It also contains vital antibodies, vitamins, and minerals.

Feeding Process

Adult Pigeons gently nudge the squabs and open their bills to encourage them to feed. Unlike other birds that open their beaks to be fed, the baby Pigeon must collect the crop milk directly from the source by inserting its bill into its parent’s mouth.

With such a specialized diet, hand-feeding baby Pigeons is difficult, so it’s best to seek help from a professional rehabilitator before attempting to care for a young squab.

Dietary Changes

Crop milk is the only source of nutrition for baby Pigeons in their first week, but their parents include partially digested plant material in their diet during the second week. After about two weeks, the young squabs are weaned off crop milk and fed softened adult food only.

A juvenile pigeon

A juvenile pigeon

Protection and Survival

Nesting Habits

Different Pigeon species have different nesting habits, but most prefer to nest well above the ground. For Wood Pigeons, that means the tree forks and hedges, but Feral Pigeons typically nest on man-made structures like buildings and bridges. Pigeons usually prefer to build their nests in hidden, sheltered locations, although some pairs choose accessible spots on rooftops or the floor of unused buildings.

Predator Avoidance and Parental Care Strategies

Pigeons avoid nest predation by building their nests in inaccessible or hidden places, although enemies like Crows, Magpies, raccoons, and many other small carnivores will eat their eggs and chicks if they can find a nest.

Adult Pigeons will generally flee the nest when confronted by a predator or human since they are pretty defenseless against larger predators. However, they can also bite or slap enemies with their wings in emergency situations.

Survival Rates

The world is a dangerous place for a young Pigeon, and only about half of them will survive their first year. Threats include predators like birds of prey and domestic cats, window and vehicle collisions, starvation, and extreme weather events.

Caring for Orphaned or Injured Baby Pigeons

As mentioned, baby Pigeons often find themselves on the ground for their first day or two out of the nest, and that’s completely normal. If you find a fully feathered baby Pigeon out of the nest, keep an eye on it and make sure your pets are kept inside for a few days until it finds its wings.

Younger birds are occasionally discovered after falling from their nests, which is a serious situation since they cannot survive without care. Try to locate the Pigeon’s nest and return the baby to the care of its parents if possible.

If you can’t return a baby Pigeon to its nest, your best option is to place the bird in a warm, dark, and safe, container and call a local wildlife rehabilitator for further advice and assistance. Caring for baby birds is a difficult and time-consuming process that’s best left to the professionals.

The Role of Pigeons in the Ecosystem

Pigeons play very important roles in natural and urban ecosystems. They disperse seeds to promote plant growth, and they’re a major food source for many other species, including birds of prey like the Peregrine Falcon and Cooper’s Hawk.

Despite their reputation as pests in urban areas, Pigeons deserve our respect as one of the few species adaptable enough to survive in such modified habits.

Of course, not all Pigeon species are as flexible, and some are under severe pressure from habitat loss and other threats. The American Passenger Pigeon is an example of a species already lost to extinction.

Two pigeon eggs in nest

Two pigeon eggs in nest

Myths and Facts About Baby Pigeons

A brief scan of the internet reveals some pretty weird and wonderful ideas about baby Pigeons and why they’re so rarely seen. One common myth suggests that baby Pigeons don’t exist because they are already full-grown when they’re born.

Let’s take a look at the facts to debunk this myth once and for all!

  • Baby Pigeons are tiny and helpless when they hatch out of their eggs. They look very different from their parents at this stage.
  • The squabs stay in the nest for about a month while they grow and develop their feathers.
  • Pigeon nests are usually well-hidden, so the babies are rarely seen until they fledge.
  • Pigeons are well-developed when they leave the nest, so it’s easy to mistake fledglings for adults.
Woodpigeon feeding one of its young chicks in the nest

Woodpigeon feeding one of its young chicks in the nest

When can baby pigeons fly?

Generally speaking, baby pigeons are capable of flying at around 6 weeks of age. But from 4 weeks, they will start to flap their wings to start practising and learning. You can often see them taking off and landing with small elevations from the ground during this time.

It's purely instinctive, as it is with all flying birds, and will naturally happen shortly after fledging the nest. Parent pigeons are extremely supportive whilst they are learning to fly and will nudge their babies to try and encourage them to move around.

Pigeon in the nest incubating two eggs

Pigeon in the nest incubating two eggs

How long are baby pigeons in the nest?

The amount of time spent in the nest depends on the time of year. It is usually between 25 and 32 days in summer, but winter can be up to 45 days.

It's quite common for a recently fledged pigeon to lose quite a bit of weight in the first few weeks. This is because they are frequently heavy before leaving the nest.

Most young pigeons will fledge a day or two before they are fully capable of flying and will spend a couple of days foraging on the ground. In some cases, pigeons will fledge and are unable to get back into their nest. This can happen when the nest is high up and the young bird cannot fly yet. If this happens, they will often beg for food from their parents and other adults.

A pair of pigeons

A pair of pigeons


Pigeons and doves are a remarkable family of birds that have been important to humanity for thousands of years. They are still a part of everyday life for people all over the globe, and although we rarely see them, these birds nest and raise babies everywhere, from backyard hedges to apartment blocks in the inner city.

The truth is there’s nothing mysterious about baby Pigeons, although lactating parents, impressive growth rates, and their unique look certainly make them fascinating to study!

We have loads of other fact-filled posts on baby Pigeons and a growing list of guides, species profiles, and articles on birds from all over the world. So, stick around and explore our site if you’ve enjoyed this article, and consider sharing with your friends or subscribing for updates on more great bird content!

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