It even sounds like a strange question, do pigeons give milk?
Generally, this term of “giving milk” is used for cattle, but do birds also give milk? If they do, which birds give milk? Is it the same as cow milk? How much milk do they produce? This guide has all the questions you may have about birds and milk.
Pigeons And Milk
Strange, but true.
Yes. Pigeons do produce and give milk to their young. For every young bird or animal, parents arrange food but the arrangement of pigeons and their babies is distinct.
They produce what is called crop milk. So, it is not breast milk like mammalian animals, but instead, milk that is formed in the bird’s crop.
A crop is a bit like a sac at the base of the pigeon’s neck. They use the crop to moisten and store food before it gets digested.
However, before the pigeon’s eggs hatch, the crop has a different purpose. The crop fills with milk for the young that is nutrient-rich, thick fluid. This sac activates naturally when pigeons hatch their babies.
Related Read: When Can Baby Pigeons Feed Themselves?
Which Birds Produce Crop Milk?
Pigeons, penguins, and flamingos produce crop milk. Doves that belong to the pigeon family also produce crop milk. But not all birds are the same. Some birds start feeding their young ones small insects and other food. But baby pigeons want crop milk.
Mother and Father Pigeons Produce Milk
An interesting fact about pigeon crop milk is that both parents produce it, both the father and the mother. About two days before the eggs hatch, the parents begin to produce the milk.
This is very unique to pigeons and unlike other animals where only the mother can make breast milk.
Is It The Same As Mammalian Milk?
No, while mammalian milk is thin and white, crop milk is different. It looks yellow and more like cheese. Remember, it is only called crop milk but it is not like cow milk. Also, it is more fatty and thick. It has more proteins than regular milk.
Composition Of Crop Milk
The composition of crop milk is as follows-
- Fat: 30-35%
- Protein: 60%
- Carbohydrate: 1-5%
- Other minerals : Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, IgA antibodies, other bacteria.
Crop milk is a balanced and optimum diet for young ones. The pigeons produce enough crop milk for two squabs.
Feeding their Babies
Baby pigeons are called Squab. The squad drinks the crop milk directly from their parents’ beak as it is regurgitated to them. Their young beaks enter their parents’ open beak and receive the milk. This starts on the very first day of hatching.
The crop milk is all the Squab will consume for the first 8-10 days approximately. Then, as hormones in the adult bird change, the production of crop milk slows naturally.
Pigeon crop milk is very nutrient-rich and contains high levels of fat and protein. It contains all the young birds need to grow healthy and strong.
Super-Nutritious Pigeon Milk
Crop Milk includes all the nutrients and essential minerals important for a baby’s growth. It is their only diet and experts suggest that they are not fed anything else. Pigeons should take care of their young ones and feed them crop milk.
In a study, pigeon milk was fed to young chickens. The chickens that were fed pigeon milk experienced a faster rate of growth. After only 7 days, they were 12.5% heavier than the chickens who didn’t get the pigeon milk.
Additionally, the study also found that the chickens who were fed pigeon milk had enhancements to their immune-related systems. This included greater diversity in the caecal microbiota that was attributed to the prebiotics in the pigeon milk.
So, overall, pigeon crop milk is an excellent source of nutrients – perfect for the needs of fragile young birds. It helps them grow and also provides needed protection by enhancing their immune systems.
It is quite incredible how these birds, both the male and female pigeon, instinctively know to produce such a nutritious fluid just a couple of days before their eggs hatch.
Milk Production in Animals
Interestingly, it is quite similar to the composition and purpose of mammalian milk. However, it is considered scientifically to be convergent evolution. This means that different species of animals have evolved to produce similar milk, but exclusive of each other.
Also interesting is that other species of birds can also produce milk but they are not related, such as the flamingo and penguin. So it appears that this trait of milk production has evolved individually for each type of bird although with a fairly similar outcome.
Related Read: Interesting birds that look like a pigeon.
What If There Is No Crop Milk?
Sometimes, you find yourself in a predicament when you find a newborn pigeon baby who has lost its parents. What to feed it then?
Many people would suggest worms, but it is not true that baby pigeons eat worms. They need something like crop milk which is their diet during the first 8-10 days.
If they don’t get it, they don’t build the essential immunity and die.
However, when you have no option, you need to find a pigeon-hatchling hand-rearing formula. The formula Is designed to mimic the cop milk and to provide essential nutrients to the baby.
You need to create a crop milk-like consistency. Every formula has different ingredients and texture, so read carefully and prepare it with great care.
As the baby grows, increase the amount. You can also seek expert consultancy from your vet.
Related Read: Evolution Of Birds | How Have Birds Evolved Over Time?
Pigeon milk, crop milk, or bird milk are misleading terms. First, it is not produced by a milking organ. It is produced by fluid-filled cells.
Also, it has a distinct texture and is unique to a few birds, including pigeons. It is a baby pigeon’s lifeline.