Pigeons are pretty much everywhere, and anywhere we go. In towns and cities, there's always an abundance of feral pigeons (rock doves) and wood pigeons out in the countryside and urban areas. But little is known about what their babies look like, so we've created this article to try and answer as many common questions about baby pigeons along with some baby pigeon pictures.
Newly hatched pigeons have pink or darkish skin and a minimal and patchy covering of yellow, which will eventually become feathers - this can sometimes be white. The beak, wings and feet are proportionally much larger than the body; however, they grow into these features as they get bigger. The beak is mainly pinkish but can also be a darker color. The feet are a slate grey color.
Hatchlings are altricial, which means they are born undeveloped and need care and feeding by their parents. The babies are born with their eyes closed. They also lay prone and lift their heads and open their bills weekly.
The eyes of a baby pigeon open when the nestling is between 4 and 5 days old.
Generally speaking, you'll never see the babies in this state unless you domestically breed pigeons or happen to stumble across the nest of a pigeon; however, this is unlikely as pigeons tend to nest in high and secluded places. Most of the time, we first see baby pigeons when they reach their juvenile stage, which is mostly similar to the adult.
Two recently hatched baby pigeons in a nest
Pigeon babies are usually around 5cm in length when newly hatched.
The average weight is around 15g for newly hatched chicks.
Baby pigeons increase their mass between 4 and 8 grams a day, reaching a weight of between 270 - 350 grams at 30 days old.
It's rare to see baby pigeons as they spend a lot longer in the nest than other birds do (on average 30 days). When they fledge, they look almost similar to the plumage of adult birds. They can be hard to distinguish, but it's not impossible to do so.
Another reason is that pigeons tend to nest in places that are completely out of the way. This usually means places like church towers, under bridges, chimneys, and abandoned buildings in towns and cities. Generally, we'll never see a pigeon's actual nest and, in turn, never see pigeon babies.
This tendency to nest up high comes instinctively from descending from rock doves. As the name suggests, rock doves usually nest on cliff edges and usually set back into the face to keep nests safe from any predators.
Juvenile and fledgling pigeons look very similar to adult plumage, which is why many people are confused as to what baby pigeons look like. This is because they spend a lot of time in the nest and are almost in their adult plumage when they fledge.
It varies of the species of pigeons, but generally speaking, 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.
Fledging pigeons are a lot more common than you think, so next time you see a group of pigeons, be sure to look out for the juveniles using the tips above.
Pigeons at fledgling stage
A juvenile pigeon
Baby pigeons are called squabs.
Squab is the term given to a young, immature pigeon that is too young to fly - usually under 4 weeks old.
Baby pigeons are fed regurgitated crop milk by both the male and female birds. This is regurgitated to the young birds within 2 hours of hatching for the first 4 days. After this, they will continue to be fed crop milk along with seeds for another 5 days. At around day 9, baby pigeons will have an adult diet brought to them. This comprises of seeds, fruits and occasionally invertebrates.
The amount of food fed to young birds increases daily, particularly when seeds are added. Both parents are required to feed two babies for the first week. After this, one adult can generally feed two squabs successfully.
Also referred to as pigeon milk, crop milk is a secretion from the lining of the crop (a 'compartment' where birds can store food prior to digestion). It is also extremely high in fat and protein.
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.
Two pigeon eggs in nest
Eggs usually hatch between 16 and 19 days after they have been laid. Hatching occurs any time of the day and takes roughly 24 hours to complete. Most of the time, both eggs will hatch at the same time. Parents will remove the empty eggshells from the nest.
Both sexes share incubation duties, with the male generally incubating from mid-morning to late afternoon, with the female from late afternoon to mid-morning.
Pigeons generally breed all year round, so eggs can hatch throughout the year. On average, most baby pigeons hatch in spring and summer, between May and June and between August and November.
Adults come back to the nest to feed the babies either crop milk, seeds or whichever part of the diet they are on between 3 and 4 times a day. Squabs receive the same amount of food each day.
The young pigeons give a peeping call and can raise their heads to be fed by the adults. After four days of age, baby pigeons will push at parents to get food and be fed. Young birds will beg and call for food persistently from around 7 days, which is when they will generally feed 2 times a day.
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.
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.
Pigeon in the nest incubating two eggs
Nests are usually constructed on ledges under cover. This can be in a wide range of locations, including caves, coastal cliffs, nooks and crannies, gutters, houses, barns, outbuildings and even occasionally in holes in trees. The main requirement is a flat surface in a covered area.
Males usually pick the site for the nest, and once found, females will sit on this site whilst the male collected materials to build the nest. The materials used are usually a mixture of sticks, twigs, roots, straw, leaves, feathers and many other types of materials.
Once obtained, the male brings the materially back piece by piece to the female, who then takes it in her beak and tucks it around her breast or flanks to construct the nest ultimately.
Pigeons often reuse old nesting sites and will generally build new nests on top of the old ones. This is generally because of the accumulation of fecal matter on the old nest. Because of this, nests that are 4 years old can be up to 20cm in height and 50cm wide. They can also weigh more than 2kg and have deep cups of up to 8cm.
Once fledged, they will usually spend between 1 and 2 weeks in the vicinity of their parental home.
The best thing most of the time is to monitor the fledging and be sure to keep pets away. The parents are more often than not nearby and watching. Sometimes the presence of a human can scare the parents away, so you may not be able to see them all the time - this is why it's important to monitor from afar.
If the pigeon appears to be injured or not at the fledgling stage, then consider contacting your local bird or wildlife rescue for advice. This is because they can determine whether the bird needs rescuing.
If there is immediate danger to the pigeon, place it in a sheltered and secure spot nearby.
A pair of pigeons
Yes, pigeons mate for life. They are monogamous and tend to mate with one partner for the entirety of their life. If the unfortunate happens, and their partner dies, they will often find a new partner. However, this can take some time and is not as fast as other birds do.
Yes, baby pigeons can survive with just their dads. This is because both parents are involved in raising the babies, which essentially means the male bird is just as capable of raising the young. This is, of course, much more of a harder job for the adult, but it is achievable.