Do Pigeons Have Feelings?
Do They Get Sad, Cry, Or Love?

The idea of pigeons having human-like feelings sounds crazy, but what if pigeons can actually sense emotions like us? Keep reading to find out.

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Iñigo Navarro

June 27, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Emotions and feelings are small words with a significant meaning. As human beings, we face different emotions that are shaped mainly by different mental and physical experiences.

But have we ever wondered if other animals or species such as pigeons have feelings or emotions? Well, to your surprise, we humans are not the only ones who have feelings; birds, too have emotions.

This post talks about whether or not pigeons have feelings; if yes, do they get sad, cry or love? By the end of this post, you will have clarity regarding pigeons and their emotional feelings.

Pigeons do feel emotions to an extent. However, what can be interpreted from different studies is that birds do feel things deeply, but the emotions they feel are not similar to that of humans. Pigeons do experience sadness, grief, and excitement.

a sad pigeon

Do Pigeons Have Feelings?

Yes, pigeons have feelings. Although it is hard to say if they are of the same level as a human’s, it could be seen that pigeons do have the basic sense of emotions, including love, hate, fear, and grief.

Pigeons are intelligent birds. They are well aware of their surroundings and happenings. They can sense danger even when asleep since they nap with one eye open.

Moreover, pigeons are very affectionate birds. They mate for life which speaks a lot about their loyalty and feeling of faithfulness and love.

However, pigeons also have bad days. They get hurt and sad when either their mate or baby dies or is taken away from them. They show clear signs of distress by isolating themselves and not engaging with other birds for days.

an isolated pigeon

Do Pigeons Get Sad?

Pigeons grieve. Known as one of the most intelligent birds, pigeons tend to get too attached to their partners, developing feelings of care and affection. In case a partner dies, they display signs of distress which could be seen through their actions such as starving themselves for a couple of days.

The grieving process of pigeons is different from that of other birds; they grieve for an extended period.

Since pigeons mate for life, they stay together with their partner, and if one of them dies, the remaining partner gets sad.

Other than this, female pigeons also grieve if their baby dies or their egg goes missing. Like any other mother-child duo, the pigeon mother gets very upset about the loss of her baby.

They show their distress by laying close to the dead baby, poking, and pulling it.

a distressed pigeon

Do Pigeons Cry?

Pigeons do not cry. When sad or in pain, pigeons tend to make a grunting sound.

When a pigeon is going through a hard time, such as the death of a mate or baby, they make a grunting noise to get the attention of others around. It is their way of indicating distress.

Do Pigeons Love?

Pigeons are not only one of the most intelligent birds but also one of the most faithful birds. They love, but not the emotional kind, just the mating-partner kind. Pigeons mate for life, and hence, they have partners who stay together with them for as long as they live.

Pigeons have long mating rituals and hence changing partners is not an option. Due to this, they stick to a single mating partner, and later this attachment and affection turn into feeling of love for their partners.

several pigeon pairs

How Can You Tell If the Pigeon is Showing Affection?

Pigeons show affection towards humans. The signs include pigeons feeling comfortable around the presence of humans, eating feed from human hands, sitting either on your shoulder or head and flapping their wings.

Following is the list of attitudes that a pigeon may depict around people it loves or has affection for:

  • Feels comfortable around your presence.
  • Feeds from your hand and not the food bowl.
  • Sleeps on your hand or over your chest.
  • Flaps wings around you without flying.
  • Perches on your body, especially your face.

pigeon eating from hand

Can Pigeons Depict Feelings or Emotions?

Pigeons communicate their emotions through their behavior.

Pigeons tend to show their affection, love, and feelings to those they are comfortable with — for example, their caretakers or partners. However, these clues can be unclear for humans.

Although there is no scientific research confirming that pigeons have feelings, people who are in close contact with them, such as their owners or birders, have noticed emotions in pigeons depending upon their behaviors and personalities.

pigeons showing affection to human

Each pigeon has its unique way of showing feelings and emotions. So, let’s dive deep into different aspects of a pigeon’s emotional cycle that can help identify whether pigeons have feelings or not.

Instinct

An important aspect to understand whether pigeons feel is through their instinct. Most pigeon owners have said to notice that their pigeons can understand them, hence showing a whole variety of emotions.

But the question arises of whether these emotions are a reaction to specific actions performed by the human, i.e., bird instincts, or that they actually do feel emotions like humans?

The people who own pigeons have said that pigeons display grief; they mourn the loss of their partners and babies.

pigeon expressing grief

Expressions

Expressions are the best way to identify one’s feelings and emotions. For example, they can show whether one is sad or happy.

Pigeons do not show clear expressions like humans. They might smile, smirk, or cry but can only be noticed if given proper attention and observed closely.

For instance, pigeons tend to get scared and move further behind when they see a stranger or a new face that they do not recognize. However, pigeons do not give off expressions, and hence it is difficult to say what they feel.

pigeon flying away

How Do Pigeons Express Their Feelings?

Pigeons express their feelings through their body language. These signs include mating, fleeing, showing affection, attacking when they sense fear, and displaying signs of responsibility.

Well, like any other creature, pigeons too have different feelings. They can love, hate, care, and grief for their partners and babies. So let’s take a look into the different actions of a pigeon that shows their emotions.

Mating

One of the most incredible displays of emotion that one can visibly notice in pigeons is when they mate.

Although pigeons do not feel emotional love, they are known as loyal and are faithful to their partners as they mate for life. This gives off the feeling of faithfulness.

pigeon kissing

Fleeing

Another great display of emotion by a pigeon is when they flee from a predator.

If you have ever witnessed such a scene, you would have noticed that pigeons give off different emotions at a single time when they desperately flee from a predator (primeval survival emotion or fear).

Let’s have a look at each emotion they go through during this process.

Firstly, when they sense a threat from a predator, they give off the feeling of fear. Then, once they find a way out, they give off the feeling of being hopeful.

And finally, when they are able to escape, they give off a feeling of excitement and relief.

pigeons on the lookout

Affection and Attachment

One very common show of emotion of pigeons is amongst their partners. Female pigeons tend to show affection to their male partners. However, in the absence of male pigeons, female pigeons tend to show affection to their owners.

According to different pigeon owners, female pigeons get easily attached to the male owners in most cases. Such female pigeons also display affection and sentiment towards the owners out of love.

pigeon with male human

Fun Fact

In the absence of male pigeons, many female pigeons mistake humans for pigeons and hence create an emotion of love towards their owners.

Here’s an interesting post you can read to distinguish between male and female pigeons to under their species in greater detail.

Identify Male and Female Pigeons - 8 Big Differences!

Curious how to distinguish between pigeon genders? It’s not easy, but there are certain tells in the behavior, appearance, and sound!

Display of Hate

Pigeons do not have hateful emotions. They only feel affection and care towards their partners, babies, and humans. However, they do feel fear and hate towards their predators and any creature that tries to harm them or their family.

They do not display their hate but rather attack things that they find threatening.

angry pigeon

Sense of Responsibility

Every creature has a sense of duty, especially when fulfilling their owner’s and caretaker’s orders. Likewise, pigeons have a sense of duty and are known as one of the most intelligent birds.

An example of this could be the ability of pigeons to deliver messages. People have been using pigeons as their carriers, especially during war times.

These pigeons were awarded for their bravery because they would carry the messages of their caretakers despite often being hurt and wounded. Hence showing a sense of loyalty of being responsible.

pigeon loving humans

What Are Some Human-Like Attributes Of A Pigeon?

Pigeons often display human-like attributes including multi-tasking, telling time, being able to understand words, and showing the ability to differentiate, recognize and remember things.

Now that we have more clarity about pigeons’ feelings, let’s look at their human-like attributes.

Multi-tasking

Pigeons are intelligent birds. They observe their surroundings closely with concentration. In addition, they have split brains that let them focus on more than one thing at a time.

For example, they can observe and gain information about different things in their environment without focusing on one.

Human-like attribute: For example, a human can listen to songs and drive at the same time.

Fun Fact

They can shut one of their eyes and take a nap while the other can remain open to stay safe from any harm.

a pigeon sleeping

Here’s a case study you can read which talks about pigeons being better at multi-tasking than humans.

Tell Time

Pigeons can also calculate time. Since pigeons travel from one place to another, it is essential for them to know the time, how much time it will take to travel, and the time they will reach a particular place.

Different experiments conducted show that pigeons can calculate the time accurately.

Fun Fact

Pigeons can process the same amount of information as humans.

To further understand this better, you can read the study published.

a flock of pigeons

Understanding Words

We have all heard of parrots learning words and saying phrases, but pigeons can do this too!

A study in 2016 showed that pigeons are capable of differentiating between words and letters. Like parrots, they can also be trained and taught to speak words.

Ability to Differentiate

Pigeons can be taught to make choices based on what is good and what is wrong. They can learn to differentiate between certain things. This can involve what to touch, eat, where to sit, and how to react to strangers.

feral pigeon

Ability to Recognize

Pigeons can identify other pigeons. They do so based on the behavior of their other counterparts. This makes it easier for pigeons to differentiate between other pigeons.

They can shape their behavior according to the situation and other pigeons, just like humans.

Ability to Remember Things

Another human-like attribute that pigeons have is the ability to remember things. They are intelligent birds that have good memory.

They have seen to remember visual aids for an extended period. This involves differentiating between different photographs, even differentiating between two humans. This is why they are known as ace navigators.

pigeon near sea at night

Keep Reading!

Pigeons are known as one the most intelligent species of birds.

Like humans, pigeons too have feelings and display emotions including love, hatred, care, affection, and fear. However, these attributes can also be taught to the pigeons, if need be.

Moreover, pigeons also have some human-like attributes, such as distinguishing between good and bad, remembering things, calculating time, and multi-tasking.

Such behavioral patterns have also been proved through different experiments and tests done on pigeons. If you wish to know about pigeons, read this interesting post on where pigeons go at night.

Where Do Pigeons Go at Night? Sleeping Shelter Unveiled!

Seen at almost every outdoor setting in the day, where do pigeons disappear at night? Here's all you need to know about the night rituals of pigeons!

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By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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