What do Pigeons Eat in the Wild?

Pigeons are versatile birds and are found in a variety of habitats across the world. This is why their diet varies widely too.

Wild pigeons eat an assortment of various things, including seeds, nuts, and sometimes, insects and worms. Their diet in the wild can vary much differently than your average, everyday city pigeon.

Let’s take a look and find out what wild pigeons eat.

What do Wild Pigeons Eat?

It’s hard to believe there is such a thing as a wild pigeon. We’re so used to seeing flocks of them in city parks and wherever humans gather, tossing bread or what have you, while the pigeons happily fight amongst themselves for the food dropped on the ground.

But pigeons are wild animals, even city pigeons, and those birds who live outside of our cities eat a variety of foods to sustain themselves. Here are a few examples.

  • Seeds – Whether from grasses or assorted plants, pigeons eat the seeds that fall to the ground. Sometimes the fruit falls from the tree and rots in the dirt, leaving a feast of their seeds behind.
  • Plant buds – In the springtime when those lovely plants and flowers grow, wild pigeons love to eat these tender buds.
  • Grain – If wild pigeons happen to live near farms, it’s altogether possible they might eat any wheat grains or kernels of corn that might have fallen to the ground.
  • Fruit – It’s not always the seeds wild pigeons love to eat, sometimes they eat the fruit itself. If a crab apple falls or a squirrel happens to dislodge it from the branch, pigeons will take advantage.
  • BugsBugs and insects aren’t the favorite foods of wild pigeons, but if there is nothing else to forage, they will definitely dine on nature’s bounty of bugs.
  • Snails and worms – Pigeons are herbivores by nature, however, if they are desperate enough, they might just grab themselves a snail or a worm to snack on.
  • Small lizards – It is very rare a pigeon will attack and eat a small lizard, but if food is scarce and the bird is hungry enough, they will do what they must to survive.

What do Baby Pigeons Eat in the Wild?

Diet of a newborn pigeon:

Newborn pigeons eat none of the things their mother and father bird eat, they eat what’s called “crop milk”. This is a special secretion that’s regurgitated by the parent bird to feed the baby.

An interesting fact about wild pigeons is that feeding the baby birds is not merely the responsibility of the mother pigeon. Both parents, the mother and the father take turns feeding their young in the wild.

Diet of a week old baby pigeon:

One-week-old baby pigeons should be able to eat some solid food along with the crop milk. They can digest crushed food with the help of crop milk. The crop milk helps in the digestion of the solid food that the baby pigeon consumes. 

Diet of a three week old baby pigeon

Around their third week, baby pigeons will no longer need crop milk to provide them the necessary fats, proteins, and nutrients. Their systems are able to digest proper solid food which adult pigeons eat.

Diet of a month old baby pigeon

After they are one month old, baby pigeons will have no problem eating proper food. However, by this time, they also need to learn how to fly so they can go out and gather food to eat. 

What do city pigeons eat?

Pigeons living in urban areas are also wild pigeons. They have adapted quite well to life in urban cities and this means that they are able to find sufficient amounts of food to sustain themselves. 

Urban pigeons eat pretty much everything they find easily. This includes waste and leftover food that they may find on the ground or food from garbage bins. 

This may include – 

  • Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews, etc
  • Bread
  • Meat/fish
  • Pasta
  • Snack items from wrappers like chips, chocolates, etc

None of these foods are normal for birds to eat but pigeons have adapted to this way of life and continue to eat these foods because of the lack of availability of food they find in rural habitats.

What can wild pigeons not eat?

In urban areas, pigeons eat foods that they may find in garbage bins or on the ground. Many of these foods are contaminated and can be fatal for the pigeon. There are also certain foods that pigeons cannot digest. These include –

  • Apple seeds – Apples themselves are not harmful for pigeons but their seeds can cause intestinal upsets because they contain cyanide. 
  • Chocolate – Theobromine, the compound present in chocolate is harmful for pigeons.
  • Sugary foods/drinks – Too much sugar is bad for pigeons and may even cause diabetes.
  • Salty food – Pigeons have trouble digesting sodium and should not be allowed to eat salty food.
  • All artificially manufactured foods, i.e. whatever you can find in a plastic packet, are unnatural and should not be given to pigeons.

A Well-Balanced Meal

Wild pigeons, believe it or not, actually eat better than city pigeons due to the amount of empty-calorie bread city pigeons are fed by humans.

Even though wild birds must forage for their food, a diet consisting of seeds, fruits, grains, and the occasional insect is much better for them in the long run.

Since pigeons are found all around us, it is important to feed them smartly so that they do not fall sick later.

Making sure you research what you can and cannot feed these birds is a great way to make sure the pigeons you are feeding stay happy and healthy.

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