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Popular for their diverse range of colors and intelligence, pigeons are a common sight in the streets and parks.
However, if you leave your house, you will most likely hear the coos of this bird or come across a flock of pigeons hanging around on telephone poles, or see their droppings on your car.
As common as the sight is, it often makes people wonder how long these birds end up living. Is the massive influx of these birds because they live long or because they breed quickly? Either way, their lifespan remains much of a question mark.
The average lifespan of a pigeon varies according to the situation. Pigeons are known to live for up to six years if left in the wild. A pigeon may live up to fifteen years if kept in captivity. This is because captivity saves the bird from the threat and dangers that exist in the world otherwise.
How Long Can A Pigeon Survive In Captivity?
Pigeons kept in captivity have a greater chance of survival and can therefore live much longer than the average lifespan of a wild bird. A pigeon in captivity may have a life ranging from nine to fifteen years. Some may even end up living longer.
Most people are curious about the lifespan of a captive pigeon because it is a very common pet in American households. The care, attention, safety, and security provided at home allow the pigeons to survive longer.
One of the leading causes of pigeon death is diseases. However, a pet pigeon is comparatively less prone to diseases, given that the caretaker ensures that their coop is kept clean at all times.
Pigeons are not very picky when it comes to food and will often be found going through human food leftovers. However, regardless of their flexibility in terms of food, specific feeds will boost their immunity and health.
Humans tend to include the following food in their pigeon’s diet. These are food that they like and are proven to be healthy for them.
To help boost your pet pigeon’s heath, you may feed it bread occasionally.
Other factors also contribute to a longer lifespan of a pigeon. For example, people often provide their pet pigeons with basins that they can bathe in. Activities like these work as an exercise for the pigeon.
One thing that people often fail to take into account is the absence of predators. This provides more than physical security. The pigeons are mentally at peace, knowing that they can enjoy a feed and bathe without keeping their guards up.
Similarly, the absence of rival pigeons also helps it stay happy and healthy.
In addition, the pet pigeon does not have to compete with others in terms of food or nesting locations—all these reasons combined lead to the pigeon having a prolonged lifespan in captivity.
Depriving them of their instincts and behaviors can also prove to be detrimental. If you have a pet pigeon, it’s a good idea to let it free around the closed premises for a while so that it gets fresh air and exercise.
The entire process of mating, nesting, and incubating is also very stressful. A pet pigeon may also receive assistance from humans, whereas a wild pigeon is on its own. It has to go through all these processes while protecting and providing feed for their young.
Constantly check to see if your pigeon is well. Pigeons naturally travel in flocks, and isolating them can make them sick.
How Long Does A Pigeon Survive In The Wild?
Pigeons tend to survive for a shorter time in the wild than those who live in captivity. Where a pigeon in captivity will be able to live until nine years on average, a wild pigeon’s lifespan is usually cut short at six years.
The reason for this is quite simple. A pigeon at home is safe from all threats of the outside world. There are no predators to fear and no surprise attacks that the bird might fall victim to.
Similarly, a wild bird has to search for food and water and consume whatever food is available.
On the contrary, the pet pigeon is saved from the trouble of finding feed and is provided with it in abundance. Moreso, a pet pigeon, is given specific nutritious feeds that help it live longer.
Amazing Record of Pigeons
Pigeons usually do not have the most extended lifespan. In fact, as per experts, if a pigeon has reached the age of 8, it has exceeded expectations considering that the average lifespan is about 6 years.
However, you would be surprised to know that the longest record of a pigeon surviving is 33 years!
Potential Reasons That Lead To Their Death
Pigeons are on a constant lookout for predators. Regardless of what time of the day it is, they keep themselves alert to react instantly if they sense a predator approaching their territory.
Besides predators, the two most common reasons for their early death include diseases and accidents.
The leading cause of pigeons’ demise in North America is predators. Some of the common predators found are hawks, eagles, owls, snakes, and even foxes.
Pigeons escape most of their predators by flying away immediately. This is why with age, when their flying abilities get compromised, they also become more susceptible to be preyed upon.
Pigeons, unfortunately, are one of the animals that are quite susceptible to diseases. You can’t always stop the sickness from spreading across their colonies. This might be attributed to a variety of factors.
The loft may not have met the required requirements, the meal may have been contaminated, or a new pigeon introduced to the colony may have had a virus.
Some of the common diseases that often lead to death are:
Most of these are parasite diseases that are caused by infected feed, water, or equipment.
While a bird can die at the hands of a predator or catch a fatal disease at any age, they become more vulnerable as they grow older.
With age, like any other species, pigeons also get slower and more vulnerable. Their response time and speed decrease making them easy targets for predators.
It gets more challenging for them to search for food, let alone obtain good nutritious feed. This, combined with a weaker immune system, makes it easier for them to catch diseases.
Also, the older they are, the more difficult it gets to recover or heal, especially if the bird is a wild pigeon.
While pigeons traveling in flocks is supposed to be their strength, it might often aid their death as well. Traveling in such a large number increases their chances of colliding into trees, buildings, or even each other.
Birds in flocks are often blindly following each other and may get distracted. As a result, they panic and lose their agility.
Pigeons May Kill Their Baby
The pigeon doesn’t need to die when it comes to old age. Instead, the pigeon may likely die or be killed in its juvenile stages. In some cases, the parent pigeons may even resort to killing their child.
A pigeon may kill its baby if
- The baby is deformed
- The baby is ill
- The baby falls and attract predators
If the chick is sick or deformed in any way, the mother pigeon may end up killing it. This is for two reasons.
The parents are afraid that whatever sickness one chick has, it might spread to the others. Secondly, if the chances of survival for the sick chick are less, they would not want to waste their limited resources on a lost cause.
If a chick falls of a nest, it is most likely that it will start asking for help. This happens mostly at the earliest stages when the chick that falls is incapable of flight and will cry out for help.
The parent might end up killing the pigeon to avoid any predators that might be lured in their direction due to the chick’s cries.
Chick Wanders Off To Another Nest
Many pigeons, especially young chicks, die due to territorial disputes.
When young chicks wander off to another nest, the adult bird of that nest might end up killing the young. In addition, pigeons can get extraordinarily territorial and aggressive, resulting in fights that lead to death.
If you are interested in breeding pigeons, ensure that their nesting is done with clear boundaries and are at a distance such that no one’s personal space is invaded, keeping them safe from catching any diseases.
Can You Tell If A Pigeon Is Dying?
Pigeons who are sick or dying tend to separate themselves from the rest of the flock and seek out dark, shady areas. Their activity level decreases, and you hear fewer coos. Furthermore, their feeding habits deteriorate, and they cease to engage with the flock.
You can keep in mind a few things to observe if you suspect that a pigeon may be hurt or dying.
Difficulty in breathing
Unable to fly normally
Walking with a limp
Drinking more than normal
Unstable and slouching posture
Little to no reaction when approached
There are other signs, but you may only observe these changes if the pigeon is your pet. In case your pet pigeon looks ill, you can check for
Keep in mind that these birds may carry and spread several diseases, so be cautious near them.
If the bird is a wild pigeon, it will most likely isolate itself until it recovers or dies. If it chooses to let you assist, or if your pet pigeon is sick, then you can place them in a box.
The box should be in a warm and dark place. You may provide the sick bird with water, salt, and sugar solution.
Anything you do beyond this can hurt the pigeon even more. You also are not aware of what disease the pigeon may be carrying. It’s best to contact a professional wildlife rehabilitator and let them do the remaining work.
Do Pigeons Grieve After The Death Of Another Pigeon?
Pigeons are smart. This intellect enables them to experience and express sadness in the same way humans do when they lose someone they care about.
Pigeons do grieve. These birds are clever and self-conscious, and they are also aware of their surroundings, particularly other pigeons with whom they interact. Pigeons grieve for several days. During the mourning process, they cry out to their deceased pigeon and sulk around.
The Death Of A Mate
When a pigeon finds a partner, they remain together for the rest of their lives. As a result, both birds establish a deep intimate relationship during their time as a pair.
When one of the pigeons in the couple dies, the other gets severely affected. For weeks, the widower pigeon mourns the loss of its partner.
Depending upon the pigeon or its relationship with its mate, a pigeon may or may not find a new partner. Some pigeons mourn for weeks; others mourn for years.
Some pigeons choose to remain alone for the rest of their lives, while some even resort to extreme measures like getting themselves killed in an accident or at the hands of a predator.
The Death Of A Child
In the case a pigeon’s baby dies, the mourning cries are observed to be more intense. For a few days, the parent pigeons remain at the side of the dead chick, poking or pulling at it.
They are smart enough to realize that prolonging the grief in this period can prove to be dangerous for the remaining chicks.
After some time, the pigeons will remove them from the nest. This is done to keep the nest tidy. They understand that it would decay if the deceased baby is left in the nest, attracting insects and predators.
As a result, they have no option but to remove the deceased bird from the nest to maintain their peace and security.
Irritability, aggressive plucking of its feathers, or decreased appetite are signs that the bird is depressed or disturbed.
Where Does A Pigeon Go To Die?
A sick pigeon looks for dark and isolated places like ventilation shafts, holes, or any opening in buildings or walls to spend its sickness period.
With the abundant reasons why pigeons die, why is it that you never see dead pigeons around?
This is because as soon as a pigeon realizes that it’s sick and may die, it wanders off to a deserted dark place in an attempt to draw less attention to its flock and exposing them to risk.
The pigeons do not bury their dead friends. Instead, the sick or injured pigeons are self-sufficient and ensure that their death does not bring trouble to the remaining flock.
Going to a deserted, dark place serves a dual purpose. First, it allows the pigeon to heal itself and recover without being seen by a predator. Second, after the pigeon has recovered, it will rejoin the flock.
It is common knowledge that pigeons travel in flocks of 20-30 birds. Therefore, if an ill pigeon continues to travel with the remaining flock, it may slow them down, making them all vulnerable to an attack.
Also, if the sick pigeon dies at some point, it essentially puts its fellow pigeons at risk. The dead pigeon might serve as an unintentional bait for the remaining birds.
The birds may be flying out of the sight of a predator, but seeing a dead pigeon in the location might send the predators searching for the alive ones.
A pigeon’s average life ranges from 6 years to 9 years, depending on whether it’s a wild or captive bird. A captive pigeon is safer from diseases and predators and is better cared for, resulting in a longer lifespan.
Pigeons have a great intellect, often making them take decisions that harm themselves or their babies to protect the flock or the remaining brood.
Since you have stocked up on all the information about how long a pigeon lives, here’s an interesting post you can read about how long do cardinals live.
The cardinals are known for their bright red coloration and their crested head. Learn how long they can survive in the wild.
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David 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!