Do Pigeons Mate for Life?
Birds True Love

Very few birds form monogamous, lifelong bonds. Pigeons are one of them! Keep reading to explore more about the endearing, strong bond of pigeons.

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Iñigo Navarro

June 20, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Whether you consider pigeons to be an enchanting part of the urban landscape or a menacing species that keeps leaving its excrements at every public place, these wild birds are a common part of our city and suburban environments. There’s hardly a way to escape them completely.

Due to their highly adaptable nature and flexible food choices, pigeons are prevalent in the wild as well as the cities. Primarily feeding on grains and seeds, as well as insects and foliage, pigeons wouldn’t reject any food scraps and leftovers available in the garbage cans.

Despite their parasitic nature, known to destroy crops and spread filth around, if you closely examine these pigeons, you’ll realize that they are loveable creatures that possess some peculiar abilities, specifically, creating an endearing lifelong bond with their partner.

Pigeons are monogamous species that mate for life. Once it chooses its mate, they stay committed and faithful to its partner, and in most instances, would only mate with its partner. They create a big family of squabs together, breeding multiple times each year, raising two young pigeons in each cycle.

pigeon on ground

Do Pigeons Mate for Life?

Pigeons form monogamous pairs that mate for life, which means that once they select their partner, the two form a strong bond and stay together for the entire course of their life until one of them dies.

In general, even long distances between the two mates also do not tend to affect their relationship. In most instances, the loyal pigeon stays committed to its partner and is immediately able to recognize its mate not only in an entire flock of many pigeons but also when it meets its partner after a long time.

However, occasionally though, another non-mated pigeon might influence the separated pigeon, alluring it to mate with it, affecting lifelong mating behavior.

a pigeon pair

Are Pigeons Faithful to Their Partner?

Typically, mating pigeon pairs pledge to stay committed and faithful to one another, mating only with each other for the rest of their lives and continuing to love one another until they are separated, either by death or physical factors such as distance or captivity.

Pigeons have such levels of intelligence and dedication that they respect the bond they form and are determined to build a family together, and in most instances, stay extremely loyal.

Fun Fact

Pigeons are one of the six animal species that can recognize themselves in the mirror.

Do Pigeons Cheat One Another?

pigeons looking away

Even though pigeons pair for life, they may likely mate with other pigeons when they get a chance. Pigeons might become promiscuous when their partner is not around, mating with other pigeons, which they might find attractive. This is quite a common behavior among the birds.

So, just like humans and other animals, pigeons, too, have a tendency to cheat!

However, they do not break bonds with their lifelong pair, take full responsibility for their babies in the nest, and raise them with their partner. The pigeons still remain as a single unit to bring up their young and protect them.

Just like the males might try to mate with other females, the females also have a tendency to interact and breed with stronger, more dominant male pigeons in the absence of their male companion, though.

In the case of domesticated pigeons, where the pigeons have not chosen their partners themselves but have been forced to mate with another pigeon by humans, the pigeon would take advantage of any opportunity when it finds a better partner to mate with it.

courting pigeons

What Happens When One Pigeon Dies?

After the partner’s death, the surviving pigeon would attempt to find another mate, although this takes considerable time, sometimes a few weeks or even months. However, the male is able to overcome the grief and find a new mate faster than the female pigeon.

Like other monogamous species, pigeons are loyal to their mates. They stick around with their partner, which they choose for life. In an instance, however, where one pigeon dies, the other only then looks to mate with another pigeon since the lifelong bond has now been broken.

How Do Pigeons Choose Their Mates?

an adult pigeon pair

These city-dwelling birds are a common everyday sight. You might often spot them in groups of a multitude of birds called flocks.

Pigeons usually live in groups of around 50-500 birds, generally having an equal number of male and female birds. This provides an opportunity for the male pigeon to pursue his desired female as he begins to display his courting behavior to entice the potential mate.

Pigeons have peculiar mating behaviors. Once the male pigeon depicts its interest in the female, it proceeds to allure the female in an attempt to mate with her.

The male approaches the intended mate by circling her, arrogantly marching around the female, displaying his masculine characteristics. He flamboyantly spreads his tail wide, inflating his neck feathers to puff himself up. This makes the bird look larger and more impressive to the female.

a pigeon pair on ground

The female pigeon responds by flying off or walking around as the male keeps following her. If the female is interested, she shows a friendly attitude towards the male, inviting him to mate.

During their courtship, the male pigeon feeds the female partner by regurgitating food. The couple then selects a place to build their nest.

After the nest is completed, they engage in mating and are ready to have a family of young squabs together, marking the beginning of their journey with each other.

courting pigeons on ground

Do The Pigeons Kiss Each Other?

As the male pigeon communicates his interest towards his intended female, he nods his head towards her and entices the female by bluffing up his body. If the female agrees, both will engage in a pigeon kiss.

As part of their courtship behavior, pigeons touch their beaks together, gesturing to what we call a kiss.

pigeons kissing

Pigeons kiss each other by rubbing their beaks together, thus becoming a pair. The act of feeding each other also mimics a kiss in the case of pigeons. This pair is likely to stay together for the duration of their entire life.

How Do Pigeons Mate?

Pigeons mate for a very small duration of time, in fact, only a few seconds. When the two have paired together and completed their nests, they would then copulate.

Both the male and female pigeons possess an orifice called the cloaca that enables them to mate. This cloaca is not only linked to the reproductive tract of the bird but also to the excretory system through which the bird excretes.

During mating, the male pigeon mounts onto the female to give her what is called a ‘cloacal kiss’, all this while flapping his wings rapidly to maintain balance on top.

This process entails the touching of the two cloaca, which enables the sperm from the male bird to be transferred into the female. This rapid process, taking only a few seconds, concludes the mating of the pair.

pigeons mating

The female stores the sperm in her reproductive tract, where it stays until the egg is released. You might note this process to be quite similar to mammals. When the egg is released, the sperm will fertilize the egg. If fertilization is successful, the shell of the egg begins to develop.

When Do Pigeons Mate?

Unlike most birds, pigeons do not have a specific breeding season. They can mate and produce new breeds at any time of the year. In fact, pigeons are one of the fastest reproducing birds as they are able to mate, attempting to produce several broods each year.

Fun Fact

Pigeons can produce as many as six broods in a single year.

However, factors like the weather and availability of food can impact the breeding patterns of the pigeons. Pigeons choose to breed when the weather is favorable. This is why fewer broods are produced during winters relative to summer and spring.

Abundant food supply is also a requisite as the pigeons need it for a salubrious embryonic development.

Fortunately, there is a plentiful supply of food for the pigeons dwelling in the urban and suburban areas, which makes breeding possible all year round.

pigeons eating

Pigeons also produce a feed known as crop milk for their young. This milk is a mixture of partially digested food and secretions that is vital for the development of the young.

Since pigeons can produce this milk at any time of the year, it gives them the chance to mate any time and produce eggs.

How Do You Tell The Difference Between A Male And Female Pigeon?

In the case of pigeons, it can be a challenging task to determine the male and female pigeon. Unlike most bird species where there are apparent differences in appearances between the two genders, with the male being more conspicuous than the female, pigeons can be hard to distinguish.

male female pigeon

Not only their physical features, but their organs also look similar externally, which means you’ll have to look at their behavioral cues to decipher between them.

  • You can tell the male pigeon from a female by closely observing its behavior when the bird is in a flock with other pigeons. The male constantly makes efforts to allure a female, wooing at other pigeons as it prances and charmingly coos around at other females.

  • If you happen to get a glimpse of two pigeons mating together, know that the male pigeon is the one that mounts onto the female during their courtship.

  • The way the pigeon sits on the incubating egg also determines its sex. A general incubating pattern follows where the female sits on the egg from mid-afternoon till the morning and swaps it with the male in the morning when the female rests or goes to search for food.

So, if you get a view of a pigeon nest from your window where a pigeon is sitting on the eggs in the morning, you can tell it is the father!

How Often Do Pigeons Lay Eggs?

Pigeons are among the few birds that can breed at any time of the year, typically producing three to four broods each year, to a maximum of six times.

Once the mating occurs, it doesn’t take much time for the female pigeon to lay the eggs. Usually, the bird lays 2 eggs for every mating cycle it goes through. The clutch can be one or even three eggs sometimes.

pigeon eggs

Younger pigeons who have just matured are more likely to lay just one egg.

However, the eggs aren’t released together. The female pigeon releases the first egg, and then after around 44 hours, it releases the other.

After the egg is released, the female pigeon sits on the egg for one to two days, after which both the male and female pigeon take part in incubating the egg, which takes around 18 days to hatch.

Sometimes, the mating pair might not be able to produce eggs. If the pigeons fail to produce any eggs after subsequent attempts at mating, there is a probability that one of them might be infertile and hence might not be able to produce offspring.

When incurred with such a situation, the pair might choose to part ways and find new partners to produce offspring.

pigeon incubating its eggs

What Do Pigeon Eggs Look Like?

If you’ve ever got a chance to look at pigeon eggs, you’ll note that the eggs have a porcelain white shell. Relatively small in size, about 3cm, there might sometimes be slight variations in the color.

Sometimes, it could be pale blue or light brownish and could even have tiny spots, depending on the environmental factors.

Pigeons nesting in the colder regions may lay eggs with a darker toned shell than the typical white. This slight dark shade provides warmth to the hatchling inside in the severe cold.

two pigeon eggs

Similarly, sometimes the pigeon may lay darker colored eggs in the summer as these provide IV protection for eggs in sunny locations.

Regardless of the weather and coloration of the eggs, proper incubation is essential for the survival and healthy growth of the hatchlings.

Both the parent pigeons take turns sitting on the eggs, providing them with the warmth that is imperative to the health of the baby pigeon.

Where Do Pigeons Nest?

The common nesting sites for pigeons are building ledges, rafters, under bridges, flat rooftops, or inside barns. Abandoned buildings, gutters, and window air conditioners also are among the favorite sites of pigeons to build their nests.

The urban and suburban zones provide a plethora of options for the feral pigeons to build their nests. Unlike many birds which prefer to nest in dense plantations and among the elevated branches of trees, the common nesting sites for pigeons include open sites.

pigeon nest

These places include barns, rooftops, bridges, building ledges, and more. Among some of their favorite sites also include window air conditioners, gutters, and abandoned construction sites. The probability is high that you’ll come across numerous nesting pigeons here.

Nests are an integral component of any bird’s life. Pigeons who want to mate need to have a nest to lay eggs. This serves as a safe haven for the birds where the pigeons would dwell with their squabs till they mature into adult pigeons.

Hence, they prefer to nest in a cozy place that provides the parents with some privacy, giving them a sense of security.

baby pigeons

Did You Know?

Since pigeons are a community flocking birds, they prefer mass nesting. There's not just going to be one nest, but dozens of birds share the same nesting site.

When both the pigeons are ready to mate together, they select a site to build their nest. The male then brings a single piece of stick or twig to the female, who stays back at the nesting site.

The female accepts the stick brought by the male and places it under her. This lays the foundation of the mating pigeon’s nest.

The female then stays in the nesting location, building the nest from the materials that the male pigeon brings to her, usually one at a time. These include branches, twigs, straws, hay, and dried foliage. Tobacco stems are preferred since they repel insects from finding their way into the nests.

a female pigeon

The completed nest is a cluster of dried-out materials shaped like a saucer, almost 10-11 inches in size, but is not as sturdy and tough as the nests of other birds. This is because this nest is not built in tree branches.

The female pigeon does not lay eggs right away after the completion of the nest. It would take several days to become accustomed to its nest and then release eggs.

Do Pigeons Reuse Their Nests?

It is safe to say that pigeons are among the many birds that reuse their nests to raise another brood of eggs. They may even have two separate nests to raise two individual pairs of offspring.

Very often, pigeons use the same nesting site for subsequent breeds by creating next nests on top of the already built nests.

Moreover, pigeons do not dispose away the excretions from the babies. In fact, some parent pigeons make use of the eggshells and even the bodies of dead hatchlings to compose their nests, strengthening them over time.

a large pigeon nest

Thus, the pigeons’ initially fragile and tottering nest turns into a tough and stout structure over time.

Researchers have found that pigeon nests that are quite a few years old can measure up to 7 inches in height and 19 inches in length. This makes for an enormous nest for the pigeons to raise their squabs!

How Do Pigeons Feed Their Squabs?

The female pigeon usually lays two eggs, which are white. Once the incubation period is over, which lasts for around 18 days, the fragile little eggs are hatched.

The young pigeons - known as Squabs - are covered in yellow from top to bottom, usually with sparse or spikey feathers. At the time of their birth, the nestlings are pretty limp and weak, with somewhat deformed-looking beaks, helplessly turning their heads searching for food.

chick of pigeon

Like all newly born babies, squabs have peculiar nutritional requirements. During the first few days, the squabs are fed crop milk. This is a feed that is regurgitated as a thick liquid from the parent pigeons. You’ll see both the mother and father pigeon taking an active part in feeding the pigeons.

In case there is a baby pigeon that has been abandoned by its parents, though this is rarely a case, explore Nekton Baby Bird Handfeeding Formula For Birds

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Fun Fact

The young babies of the pigeon expand in size by twice within 2 days. This makes them one of the fastest-growing vertebrates.

At the age of about 10 days, the fledglings are old enough to be introduced to adult food such as seeds and grains that the pigeons eat. They are no longer dependent on crop milk.

In about 2 weeks, you’ll observe the bird’s flight feathers emerge, and by the end of week 3, the squabs are covered in feathers, well resembling an adult pigeon.

Within a month of their birth, the entire plumage of the pigeon is fully grown, including the tail and wings. At this point, the weight of the young squab is almost that of an adult pigeon.

baby pigeon

Did You Know?

A fully grown adult pigeon has almost 10,000 feathers on its entire body!

The young squab is now ready to leave the nest and fly around, searching for their food. During the first few days, the male pigeon trains the young, teaching them survival skills.

Now that the young squabs can leave their nests, the pigeon pair is prepared to raise another brood. The female will release a new clutch after successful mating, once again repeating the cycle of 30 days.

How Long Do Pigeons Live?

On average, pigeons are known to live for around 3-6 years. They have an average lifespan of approximately 3-4 years.

However, pigeons are known to stay alive for as long as 15 years as captive birds when given adequate care.

Pigeons do not breed until the age of one. After this, they are considered old and healthy enough to be able to mate and reproduce.

a feral pigeon

Do Male Pigeons Mate With Each Other?

This can never be the case. Male pigeons only breed with female pigeons, that too, primarily to expand their breed.

Male pigeons often do not get along very well. They frequently have disputes and may become aggressive towards each other. They also envy other male pigeons if they observe them approaching their partner, reacting by chasing their rivals away.

The females also adopt a similar behavior, avoiding males that try to court them in front of their mates. However, this does not mean that they would never engage in courtship with other males.

They do not hesitate to take a step forward if their male partners are not present there.

healthy pigeon pair

Warning!

If you ever captivate two or more male pigeons in a confined space with minimal food resources, they might end up in a severe clash!

Do Pigeons Show Affection?

Pigeons do have feelings, and they know how to display their emotions rightly. Continue to read below to know when do pigeons show their feelings.

1. Aggravation At the Time of Laying Eggs

Sometimes, you might notice a quite agitated and aggressive behavior of a pigeon. This anxious behavior may be a signal that the bird is about to lay eggs.

If you look at their nests during this time, they seem like a haphazard mess, with twigs scattered everywhere.

2. Excitement On the Sight of Food

If one pigeon leaves the nest searching for food, upon returning, it is blissfully welcomed by the other pigeons as they greet each other with raspy coos.

3. Showing Affection to Their Mate

Spotting the pigeons perched on trees, electrical wires, and rooftops in urban areas is quite common. Have you ever come across two pigeons together showing affection?

pigeon showing affection

The most common way pigeons show their love and affection towards each other is by cuddling as they coo around. Sometimes, they may even peck each other lightly on the head or neck to show their love to one another.

4. Mourning The Loss Of A Loved One

These highly compassionate birds that mate for life become immensely distressed when their mate or even their chick passes away, displaying signs of mourning.

As the pigeon grieves, it calls out for its loved one cooing sadly, moping around, and won’t even eat for a couple of days. You can quickly identify a mourning pigeon by its sad gestures, extreme irritability and aggression, and an observable loss of appetite.

a sad pigeon

Do Pigeons Attack Humans?

Pigeons and humans have been living in the same environment for years now. Both have become quite accustomed to the presence of each other around.

However, pigeons are subtle creatures that like to keep to themselves only, not interfering unnecessarily in human activities, trying to avoid any confrontations.

If left on their own, pigeons wouldn’t be a nuisance. But beware, if you distract or aggravate the bird, it might attack you.

Pigeons can develop fondness with humans if you treat them nicely. Feeding them food every day and caring for them is a way to acquire the affection of pigeons.

feeding pigeons

If you provide them with food regularly, they might even begin to recognize you and would impatiently wait for you every day at the feeding site. Pigeons won’t hesitate to express their affection towards you if they like you.

Pigeons are fun-loving, docile, and social creatures who like to play around. They wouldn’t mind a handful of your attention and would love to cuddle and be petted by humans.

Keep Reading!

Marking their presence almost everywhere you go, the social species flock right in your yard and are a common sight in parks, roadsides, city centers, temple tops, and even rooftops.

Delving deeply into the lives of the subtle yet exasperating birds, we now know about the loving and adorable nature of the pigeons, as they form strong, lifelong bonds with their mates and produce offspring together at incredibly rapid rates constantly propagating around.

If you’re wondering whether you could have a mouthful of these birds and what they taste like, read this blog.

Can you Eat Pigeons? Is it even Legal? Is it Safe?

If you're contemplating whether you could consume pigeon meat as a source of protein, the answer is yes! Keep reading to find out more.

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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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