Pigeons are friendly birds that can be found in most places. City pigeons or feral pigeons have adapted to the city living and are seen almost everywhere. There are many myths surrounding pigeons, some of them true and some of them are just myths.
One of the most common myths about pigeons is that they leave their babies if they are touched by humans. But do pigeons leave their babies?
Pigeons are monogamous birds that mate for life. They breed continuously until both the birds are alive. The breeding season for pigeons lasts for the entire year. They lay one to 3 eggs at a time. Pigeon eggs are small in size and white in color.
Pigeons, just like humans, take a lot of care of their babies. Once a pigeon lays eggs in a nest, it becomes very protective. Pigeon parents do not leave the eggs unattended for fear of predators. The incubation period for pigeon eggs is about 15 to 18 days.
Related Read: Do Crows eat Pigeon eggs?
After the egg hatches, the parent sits on top of it to provide the necessary warmth to the baby and also to protect it. Both the parents take part in the incubation process. However, it is the female pigeon that spends most of the time with the eggs.
Pigeon parents take turns to feed the babies. They feed crop milk to the squabs. The baby pigeons insert their beaks into the throat of the parent to suck the crop milk. From the day of hatching to 15 days, the baby pigeon is always with the parent. Both the parents take turns to feed the babies.
After 15 days, the baby is left alone for a short duration, while the parents go out searching for feed. Young birds require multiple rounds of feeding to grow up healthy.
In about 4 weeks, young pigeons begin to walk and fledge. Around the 5th and 6th weeks, they take the first flight under the guidance of their parents. Once a young pigeon learns to fly and feed on its own, it becomes independent and leaves the nest.
The parent pigeons continue to live in the same nest and start the next brood. Hence we can safely say that pigeons are good parents and do not leave their babies.
Do pigeons leave their babies if they are touched by humans?
This is just a myth. Pigeon parents do not leave their babies even if you touch them. However, it is not safe for the squabs to come in contact with humans as they may contract disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
When Do Pigeons Leave Their Babies?
Pigeons may abandon their eggs or babies under some life-threatening circumstances. Here are some of them –
- They sense a predator closeby, whom they cannot fight. Some common predators include cats, dogs and bigger birds like hawks and falcons.
- There are too many humans watching the nest. If there is a lot of activity and unnatural commotion near the nest, the pigeon may be frightened and force to leave the babies.
- They are scared away by humans
Even in these circumstances, pigeons do not completely abandon their young ones. They return to the nest after some time to care for the eggs or squabs.
So if you find a pigeon nest on your balcony or on your window sill, do not interfere too much as you might scare them. You can occasionally watch the birds and see their progress.
What to do if you find abandoned baby pigeons?
The first step is to understand what you are dealing with. You should be able to identify that the small birds are pigeons. Ensure that you check enough pictures on google to know this.
If you see a nest of pigeon chicks and do not see the parent birds around, you should not rush to their aid immediately. First, observe the condition of the chicks. If they are warm and quiet, it means that the parent pigeon hasn’t been gone for long. In this case, you should wait and let the adults return.
If the chicks are too thin, in a very bad condition, or in danger, then only should you intervene? If not, wait for the adult pigeons to return.
If you don’t see the parents return back to the nest for a few hours, that means they have probably abandoned their chicks.
Now, you should get to work. First of all, identify whether the babies are nestlings or fledglings. Checking some pictures should give you a clear idea.
Nestlings are very young birds. They are covered in yellow fur and are quite small and don’t really look like pigeons.
Fledglings are bigger – a month old or more. They have lost most of their yellow fur and probably look much more like adult pigeons, but smaller in size and fluffier.
You will have two options now that you have decided to help the baby birds.
- You can raise the chicks yourself at home or in any safe place. Remember that this will need a lot of your time and attention but it is a truly fulfilling experience.
- You can take the chicks to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center. They will know how to deal with the chicks and will be able to take care of them and safely release them into the wild.
Pigeons are extremely careful and attentive parents. Unless they are in grave danger, both parents rarely leave the nest together.
There is always one parent protecting the chicks and keeping them warm while the other goes out to look for food and nesting material.
If you find a nest full of baby pigeons without the parents, chances are that the parents have been scared away for some reason and will return soon.
You shouldn’t intervene unless you think that the chicks are in danger or in a bad condition.