Pigeons are wild birds that tend to live in flocks. They were originally domesticated in Egypt by 8000 BC to be hunted as sport birds and eaten following pigeon shoots, but now they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Pigeons are often referred to as “rats with wings” because they originally thrived near human settlements because of the grain stores close-by. Today, they live around urban areas where food is readily available.
Pigeons inhabit many different environments, and the fossil record indicates they have been around for longer than human recorded history. They were originally domesticated for livestock purposes before later becoming a popular game bird.
Pigeons have also been used throughout history for various purposes, including being messengers in war zones where there is no other way to communicate with your allies. Soldiers on the front lines during World War I reported seeing pigeons carrying messages back home. They were even taken into space when people first ventured out there.
In this post, we will discuss what pigeons eat and how you can feed them responsibly if you happen to befriend one outside your window.
Basic Facts About Pigeon Diet
Pigeons are wild birds that inhabit rural and urban environments alike. They can be fed a diet of corn or seeds. Anyone can help by providing supplemental bird feeds to them.
Pigeons are scavengers by nature and as such, they eat a variety of things that they find on the ground. They prefer to eat seeds and grains, but will also consume insects, worms, fruits, and vegetables if given the opportunity.
Berries are another favorite of theirs. If you have bushes producing certain berries, expect to see pigeons visiting your yard.
Can Pigeons Eat Bread?
It’s common to see people feed bread to pigeons around cities. While bread is not the healthiest thing for them to eat, it will not kill them. That being said, providing a balanced diet is always best and you should avoid overfeeding pigeons with anything – including bread.
Pigeons have evolved over thousands of years to digest large amounts of seed, but bread does not have the nutritive qualities which they need to thrive. It’s very similar to junk food for us. We love it, but it’s not exactly nutritious.
If you feed them too much bread, they’ll gladly eat it all. But it is important to note the appropriate feeding amounts. You may be tempted to put out large quantities of bird seed for them because they seem to eat it all up anyway, right? This is not necessarily a good idea.
Pigeons can become obese which can damage their organs. Excess fat can actually lead to health problems such as joint pain, respiratory issues, and heart disease. So, while it is important to provide food for them when they are visiting your property, be sure not to go overboard!
Can Pigeons Eat Peanuts?
Pigeons will also eat peanuts if they find them on the ground. In fact, some people leave shelled peanuts out in their backyards, specifically to feed pigeons.
Many people like to feed pigeons peanuts because they are so inexpensive! You can find them at the grocery store or even get them online in bulk quantities for very low prices – making it easy and affordable to keep your backyard full of happy, healthy pigeons all year long.
While peanuts are not a bad food option for pigeons, they should not make up the majority their diet. They are high in fat and can lead to obesity if fed to birds regularly.
Can Pigeons Eat Rice?
Another common food that we see people feed them is rice. While rice is not the best option for them to eat, like bread it will not kill them.
One of the biggest concerns with feeding pigeons cooked rice is that they might get sick if there are any bacteria present. It’s easy enough to heat a pot of rice without cooking off all the nutrients though – so you’ll still be feeding them a nutritious meal as long as the rice has been cooked and cooled properly.
Pigeons can also eat barley and oats. Again, these grains should not make up the bulk of their diet, but will provide some nutrients for the birds when combined with other foods.
Can Pigeons Eat Pet Food?
It is natural for pigeons to scavenge for food and they may also eat dog / cat food if it is available to them. If you leave pet food outside, it’s common to see pigeons flocking to get hold of it, much to your pet’s chagrin.
While there are some nutrients in pet food that will be beneficial to pigeons, it’s not recommended to provide this as the primary source of their diet. Dog food often contains high levels of sodium, which can be harmful to pigeons.
So What SHOULD You Feed Them?
A good diet for pigeons includes a variety of foods that they would find in their natural environment. This could include:
- Cracked corn
- Sunflower seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Niger thistle seed
You can purchase these seeds from your local farm supply store. They are also easy to find online on various well-known websites.
In addition, provide some fruits and vegetables for them when they visit your property:
- Lettuce / Romaine
- Watercress / Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Editor’s note: When you’re feeding pigeons, always put the food in a dish on the ground rather than scattering it in the general area. This will help them to eat without feeling threatened by other animals.
How to Get Rid of Hungry Pigeons
Removing food sources around your house should be enough to get rid of pigeons, but that’s not always enough. What if you’re tending a garden with lettuce in it? You want to keep those pesky pigeons away.
One way to help keep pigeons away from your property is to remove potential food sources. This includes keeping trash cans and dumpsters closed, not leaving pet food outside, and cleaning up spilled bird seed. If you have a vegetable or fruit garden, consider using netting or cages to protect your plants.
If you see one outside your window, do your best to keep the pigeons away by making sure all windows are closed and that no food is left within their eyesight. Pigeons are known to carry diseases such as cryptococcosis from rat feces, so it’s important to clean up immediately and thoroughly if you have been visited by a pigeon.
Why Can Pigeons Eat Like Us?
Domesticated animals that have lived with us for millennia, like dogs and cats, can’t eat many human foods. And yet, pigeons can. In urban areas, they’ll eat just about any leftovers. Be it pasta, bread, chocolate, or meat. They’ll scavenge trashcans and eat anything they find there.
There is a reason for this: their digestive system has adapted over time so that it can process almost any type of food matter. This doesn’t mean that they should though!
It also means that they are less selective in their diets, and won’t pass up a meal if it’s available to them. So, the next time you see a pigeon on your property, don’t be too quick to shoo it away. It may just be looking for something to eat.
What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?
Baby pigeons, much like baby humans, have different dietary needs. In the wild, mother pigeons will provide them with a mix of regurgitated seeds and water from their esophagus. This is called crop milk, and it’s used by many bird species, including Emperor Penguins.
In captivity, it’s up to the owner of a baby pigeon to provide an equivalent for them. You should only feed your pigeons seeds and water until they are about two weeks old. After that time, you’ll want to transition them into a more adult diet, which also includes some fruit and vegetables.
This is not a straightforward thing to do. The best way can be to use a baby food grinder and some organic, human grade ingredients like sweet potatoes or carrots mixed with the pigeon’s natural seed mix.
What Do Pigeons Eat: Dietary Variations In Pigeon Species
There are several species of pigeons, and their dietary needs vary accordingly.
It’s important to do your research on what type of pigeon you have before you start feeding it, as some foods which are safe for one type of pigeon may not be safe for another.
Here are some pointers on the most common pigeon species.
Rock Pigeon (also known as Rock Dove)
This is the type of pigeon you typically see in cities waddling around the sidewalk. You’ll see rock doves just about everywhere in the world. No matter where you are, whether you’re strolling around Seattle or Beijing, you’ll see them alongside you.
They are omnivorous, but prefer seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
You’ll find feral pigeons in more rural areas, like fields and farms. These are the same birds which were once rock doves or racing pigeons domesticated by man many years ago but now returned to the wild.
These pigeons have adapted to survive in more rural habitats. They can eat things like earthworms (What do earthworms eat), grasshoppers, and crickets.
These are the pigeons which live in mountainous areas. You’ll find them at higher levels of elevation, where it’s cold and there is plenty of snowfall each year.
They eat mostly seeds, but will also eat leaves and berries.
Oriental Turtle Dove
This is a tropical dove which can be found in Southeast Asia, India, parts of East Africa, and Europe.
They mostly eat fruits, but will also consume some insects.
This isn’t common by any means, but it looks so pretty! It’s mostly found on the Nicobar Islands in India.
It eats seeds, fruits, and sometimes worms.
Common Ground Dove
This is the type of pigeon you’ll find in open grassy areas, like a park or golf course. They eat mostly seeds and some fruits.
As you can see, all pigeons species eat mostly the same thing. The major difference between the diets of these pigeons is the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables they consume.
As a general rule, you can’t go wrong by feeding your pigeons a diet which consists mostly of seeds with occasional servings of fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s also important to note that none of these diets include any type of dairy product, cheese included. This is because pigeons are lactose intolerant and will get sick if you feed them anything containing dairy products.
Pigeons are not as simple as they may seem.
They have different dietary needs depending on their species, and feeding them the wrong thing can be detrimental to their health. So, before you go out and buy a bag of pigeon feed, do your research and make sure you’re giving your birds the right food.
They can become invasive if they take a liking to your yard. Having the occasional pigeon visit you is fine, and even cute. But having entire flocks running around your garden is potentially disruptive.
If you’re not careful, they can also transmit diseases to your other pets and even to humans. So, as adorable as they may be, make sure you know what you’re doing before you start feeding pigeons in your backyard.