Yes, pigeons do feel cold. As a matter of fact, they get colder much easier than many other bird species.
Pigeons are found in various countries across the world, spanning 6 out of the 7 continents. Does this mean that they are suited to extreme weather conditions like heat waves and harsh winters?
No, it’s not.
The reason for this is simple. When it comes to birds, smaller ones like pigeons lose body heat much quicker than other animals. Thanks to their small size, pigeons have a proportionally larger surface of their body exposed to the air.
As a result, their body heat dissipates at a very high rate, making them feel cold very quickly.
Why do pigeons feel cold?
Pigeons are warm-blooded, just like humans. This means that they cannot change their body temperature to adapt to external weather conditions and hence they feel cold.
Added to this, pigeons do not migrate to regions with warmer climates when it gets cold. They continue living in the same places even when it snows. They can tolerate up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit with the help of their adaptive features.
How cold is too cold for pigeons?
Pigeons don’t have a layer of blubber (fat) like animals in the arctic region. So of course they can not stand the extremely harsh arctic cold. However, pigeons do live in cities where it snows in winter.
So it can be said that these resilient birds can survive in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to tell when a pigeon is feeling cold
You don’t have to examine a pigeon up-close to find out whether or not it’s cold. Instead, you can just watch them from afar. You see, pigeons engage in very unique behaviors when they feel the chill, such as:
Pigeons start to shiver when they get cold. This behavior is slightly more challenging to observe from afar, but you’ll notice it if you pay attention.
How does shivering help a cold pigeon? Shivering is the pigeon’s way of increasing its metabolism and generating more body heat to fight off the cold feeling.
Preening isn’t just the pigeon’s way of grooming; it also helps them feel warm when it’s cold. When pigeons engage in preening, they’re also coating their feathers with body oils that make them sort of waterproof.
If water can’t get between the pigeon’s feathers, their bodies stay insulated and become more effective at keeping themselves warm.
This method is probably the easiest way to tell if a pigeon is feeling cold. If you see pigeons ‘sunbathing’, that’s because they feel cold and they’re trying to use direct sunlight to warm their bodies up.
Related Read: Do Pigeons have feelings?
Pigeons are known to start tucking in their bodies when they feel cold. People who witness this often think that pigeons are just mimicking other birds like flamingos by tucking in one leg. That’s quite inaccurate.
Pigeons will usually tuck a leg in, or they’ll tuck their bill into their feathers. They do this when they’re cold to try and prevent the loss of body heat.
Lastly, it’s also common for pigeons to huddle together when they start feeling cold. When they do this as a group, they’ll share body heat with each other as a very effective way to fight off the cold.
Where do pigeons go when it’s cold?
Since pigeons do not migrate to warmer areas, they continue to live in very cold climates. Pigeons in the wild will prefer to stay warm in their nests. They insulate their nests with leaves and mud to make sure it keeps them warm in winter.
Pigeons in cities, however, find relatively warmer places to build their nests like attics, roof ventilators, etc. These birds too insulate their nests with whatever they can find so that they do not have to suffer from the cold as much.
Pigeons usually don’t come out of their nests in winter so that’s why they seem to disappear in this season.
Related Read: Do Pigeons Nest in Trees? | Have You Seen them on Trees?
What happens when pigeons get too cold?
When pigeons get too cold, and none of the methods above keeps them warm enough, they do have one final tactic to try and fight off the cold. It’s called going into a state of ‘torpor’, or basically going into a deep sleep.
In a state of torpor, the pigeon’s body will use little to no energy at all, so it’s as if they’re in a long-term sleep. In this state, pigeons can survive even if their body temperature drops as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, in this state, pigeons become very lethargic. They won’t be able to move very quickly, making them exceptionally vulnerable to predators.
Can pigeons freeze to death?
Yes, pigeons can freeze to death. Even though they can tolerate very low temperatures, if a pigeon gets wet and cannot fluff up its feathers to dry itself, it will likely freeze to death.
Some pigeon breeds like the European breeds are more adapted to surviving extreme cold due to the harsh winters in the continent. Pigeons found in tropical regions may not have that tolerance.
How do I protect pigeons from the cold?
If you own pigeons or have pigeons living around you, there are a few simple ways you can help them stay warm in winter.
- Feed them corn twice a day. The high starch content will help them stay warm.
- Place warm water bowls and change frequently or place heater mats under the bowls to keep the water from freezing.
- Place light bulbs near a pigeon’s cage to provide extra warmth.
Pigeons are resilient birds and can withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t migrate in winter but instead insulate their nests and have small ways to keep themselves warm like fluffing up their feathers.
If you live in an area with a lot of pigeons, you can help them out in winter by feeding them starchy food like corn or rice and leaving out warm bowls of water for them. This will help pigeons gain some energy and stay warm.