Why do Pigeons Bob their Heads?

It is a curious question in everyone’s mind that why do pigeons bob their head? You must have wondered about it too. After all, humans have fallen into this habit of seeing pigeons around, bobbing their heads while pecking at the food, or walking on the edge of the building. These birds are found everywhere, be it in the city or village and thus everyone asks this question, “Why do pigeons bob their heads?

Why Do Pigeons Bob Their Head When They Walk?

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

To answer your question, a study was conducted on pigeons in 1978. It is popularly known as the 1978 treadmill experiment which talked about this popular question. The study was conducted at Queen’s University in Canada and after careful research; the conclusion that was drawn is as follows as to why pigeons bob their head.

  1. To stabilize their vision
  2. To gain a perception of the depth. 

Now, let’s understand these in detail.

To Stabilize Vision

Pigeons are often mocked for this ridiculous motion but there is a very sincere reason behind their doing so. When you walk, the vision around you is not very clear. Pigeons and other birds have the same problem. And it is enhanced by the fact that their eyes are situated on the side of their faces, which makes it even more difficult.

So, when you look at a pigeon walking, you think it is bobbing its head. But actually, it is a thrust and hold sequence. The pigeon thrusts its head, the vision stabilizes, and the bird can see things more clearly while the body catches up to the head. This thrust and hold sequence is a very fast one, and it’s only when you look at it in slow-motion, you understand that they do not actually bob their heads, but you perceive it the wrong way.

As the vision stabilizes, it allows these birds to focus on the important things such as their food and any moving enemy in the periphery, which is not possible while moving.

To Gain the Depth Perception

Pigeons have eyes on the sides so that the vision of both the eyes is different and it causes great problems in perceiving the depth ahead of them. The right eye has a different perception, while the left eye has a different. They only have a slight binocular perception on the front and rear. So, instead, they move their head to gauge a surface and judge it from a different position before moving forward.

It’s All About The Movement Sometimes!

Even though pigeons are the most infamous bird when it comes to bobbing, there are other birds as well who bob their heads like chickens and cranes. But, now you understand that it is just the way they see the world. Humans are mistaken in thinking that they bob their heads.

Related Read: Birds that look line a pigeon

You can see it in a human’s eye when their eyes flicker to different objects and then stabilize on one. In pigeons, this tool is known as head-bobbing.

So, if anyone asks you from now on why pigeons bob their head, you have something amazing to tell them, right?

Does Bobbing Their Heads Assist Them In Maintaining Balance?

It is also a phenomenon that bobbing heads help the pigeons maintain the balance of their bodies, but it has not been concluded by any research. It is often said that bobbing heads are the same for pigeons as the movements of hands are for humans as they walk.

As the pigeons walk and bob their heads, their head and legs move in synchronization, but it has nothing to do with keeping the balance.

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