What Do Pigeons Eat? The Definitive Pigeon Food Guide

City pigeons in the street

Pigeons are wild birds that typically survive on a mixture of different foods. Whether they are wild or domesticated, all pigeons have roughly the same diet of seeds, small insects and even small lizards. As bird control specialists in the UK, we’re able to provide accurate and helpful information regarding pigeon diets and lifestyles. Below, we’ll explore some of their most common dietary foods and habits and what they can’t eat and shouldn’t be fed.

What Do Pigeons Eat?

Generally speaking, the pigeons that dominate our cities and urban environments will eat almost anything, from insects to leftover food we throw out. Wild pigeons will eat whatever nature throws their way. Again, this includes insects such as worms and ants, as well as seeds, fruits, berries and vegetables.

Despite originally living in coastal areas, forests, gardens and cliffed areas, these pigeons have now adapted to thrive in our settlements; specifically towns and cities. 

A Closer Look At What Wild Pigeons Eat

Unlike urban pigeons, wild pigeons have access to a much healthier diet. Wild pigeons typically live in forests and coastal areas, so their diet depends entirely on what nature provides them with. The most common foods they will have access to include:

  • Berries
  • Seeds
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Grit (for digestion purposes)
  • Plants
  • Vegetation
  • And fresh water

Although wild pigeons are natural herbivores, it’s not uncommon for them to stray from their herbivorous diet if necessary. Pigeons will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough, which can see them eat insects, spiders and even lizards. Their diet also demands protein and fat to remain healthy, whether that’s from nuts, fruits or other animals. They do not have a “favourite food” but they enjoy eating seeds, nuts and vegetables more than anything else.

What Do Pigeons Eat in Urban Areas?

Pigeons have very successfully adapted to our urban environments and are able to nest, feed and thrive in our busiest towns and cities. However, when it comes to their diet and living situations, they aren’t as lucky as wild pigeons. Urban pigeons live on whatever they can find and their diet covers almost anything, including leftover food we throw away/drop. This includes:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Meat and fish
  • Confectionary (chocolates, sweets, etc.)

The reason these types of pigeons can eat what we eat is through decades of adaptation and evolution. It’s not uncommon to see pigeons scavenging from rubbish bins when they’re desperate for food. In most cases, this is very bad for them as they’re likely eating contaminated food that can be fatal.

Regardless of the type of pigeon, they all share very similar diets.

What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?

Pigeon eggs in the nest

With baby and newborn pigeons, it’s important that their diet includes a high volume of protein in order to help with their early development. Adults do not require such high levels of protein, but macronutrients are crucial for baby and newborn pigeon muscle, tissue and physical development. If baby or newborn pigeons do not receive these nutrients and proteins, they can suffer from a protein deficiency. 

Their diet from this age is based solely on milk produced by their parents. This is a special type of milk known as crop milk, which is secreted by both male and female pigeons. This unique feeding process lasts for no more than a week. If baby pigeons did not receive the essential nutrients from the crop milk they are unlikely to survive, and their digestive systems will not be able to develop to the point where they can eat what adult pigeons eat.

Baby Pigeon Diet – After One Week

After one week or sometimes less, baby pigeons will be able to eat other food alongside their staple crop milk. It’s only around the third week that baby pigeons no longer require crop milk and their digestive systems are able to digest adult pigeon food. Baby pigeons will only be able to digest crushed foods with the help of the crop milk provided by their parents (to help aid digestion). 

Baby Pigeon Diet – After One Month

After a month has passed, baby pigeons will be able to safely consume other foods. However, in order for them to efficiently gather and consume food, they must first be able to safely leave their nests and fly.

Should I Be Concerned About What My Pigeon or Dove Eats?

As pigeons and doves (and stock doves) get older, their digestive systems are able to consume most foods without any problems. Obviously, urban pigeons are more likely to consume a wider variety of foods, some of which will be harmful (such as food sourced from rubbish bins etc.).

As stated above, pigeons and doves, whether they’re pet pigeons or not, require a healthy diet of seeds, fruits, nuts and vegetables in order to remain healthy. 

What Can Pigeons Not Eat?

Aside from contaminated food they source from bins around our cities, there are certain foods that can cause harm to pigeons. Pigeons have a fairly complex digestive system which means certain foods are not able to properly digest in their systems. These include:

  • Food and drink that is high in sugar: pigeons can have bad reactions to sugary foods and drinks, and can even get diabetes from them.
  • Apples – apples themselves should cause no harm to pigeons. However, if they eat apple seeds (which contain cyanide), this can cause irritation in the gut.
  • Chocolate – another compound that causes harm to pigeons is theobromine, which is present in almost all chocolate.
  • Foods high in salt (or salt itself) – salty foods contain sodium, which pigeons and other birds have problems digesting.
  • Avocados – persin is a substance that is present in avocados and is toxic to pigeons.

Can Pigeons Eat Rice?

The notion that pigeons and other birds shouldn’t be fed rice is a myth. While it isn’t advised that you feed a pigeon rice as it bears no nutritional value, if a pigeon does eat rice, it won’t cause it any harm. Cooked or uncooked, rice is perfectly safe for pigeons to eat.

Pigeons Are Able to Eat Almost Anything

Rock pigeons, wood pigeons, homing pigeons and doves all share very similar diets. As long as they receive the correct nutrients during their adolescent years, they should develop well. 

If you are experiencing any pigeon or bird-related issues, speak to one of our pest control experts today for further help and assistance. 

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