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!

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Iñigo Navarro

June 27, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Like many other species, Pigeons are widespread across the United States and can be found everywhere, from dumpsters to bird feeders. Despite being so widespread, distinguishing between their genders mostly remain a question mark.

If you are an avid bird watcher, you must be aware that the gender of a bird will not always be revealed by mere color and markings. It is very often that both the genders look very similar, and you have to rely on other more detailed methods of observation to distinguish between the two.

Experts often find it hard to tell between the gender of the pigeons. The males have a more rounded head, a thicker neck, and are overall heavier than females. The males coo more and are more aggressive. The males take the top position while mating and incubate the eggs, usually during the morning time.

a pigeon pair

Identifying Male and Female Pigeons

There are eight significant differences that can help you differentiate between a male and a female pigeon. While considered big, not all differences will be obvious.

You will need to sharpen your senses and observation skills. Prepare to notice the minor details and conducts that will help verify the gender for you.

1. Appearance

Birds, unlike many other animals, will not have apparent physical characteristics that differentiate their gender.

There is no distinct feature that you can see and decide that the pigeon is a male or a female. Therefore, you will have to look closely for details beyond color, pattern, or markings.

Experts suggest examining three physical features that may reveal the gender: Eyes, head, and overall body mass.

  • Body Mass

heavy pigeons

Males have plumper bodies and fuller wings than females. A male pigeon has a body length of up to 345 mm. The typical body weight is approximately 240 grams; however, some studies claim it may reach 300 grams. Females have a muscle mass of roughly 200 grams.

  • Head and Neck

pigeon head and neck

Perhaps the only obvious tell that pigeons have is that the males will be generally bigger and robust looking. The other differences are less apparent.

The head of the male pigeon is rounder, and his neck will also be thicker. But, on the other hand, the female pigeon will have a flatter head and a comparatively slimmer neck.

  • Eyes

pigeon eye

The male pigeons have a more pronounced crest. This is why the female eyes are found higher on the head compared to the males. Also, if you look closely, you will notice that the female eyes are rounder than the male pigeons.

  • Bone Structure

Like many other animals, female pigeons have a broader pectoral girdle, with hipbones that are more than one cm apart.

A broader pectoral girdle might be verified by an exterior inspection of the bones under the tail. The hipbones of the men are closer together, practically touching.

2. Behavior

The male pigeon’s demeanor is upright and is comparatively territorial in terms of feed, mates, and nests.

The second easiest way after the appearance to determine the gender is by observing the behavior of the pigeons. The way they conduct themselves and behave around each other reveals their gender in the most apparent yet subtle ways.

pigeon angry look

Try to notice if you can see a difference in the bird’s movement. When the male pigeons walk on the ground, their head is usually bowed down.

They move with tilted heads with their tails scraping the bottom before them. This, coupled with the bobbing of their head, is supposedly a show for the females.

Did You Know?

A pigeon’s eyesight is also improved when it bobs its head.

Generally, male pigeons are more aggressive and ready to fight. The females are calmer and do not respond much to other birds or people, for that matter of fact.

  • Aggression Test

You may be wondering how to check how aggressive the bird is and what to do if there isn’t a rival bird around to judge the aforementioned aggression.

In this case, you can determine the bird’s gender, but it is a very hands-on experiment. It’s not something you can see or observe at a distance.

Pick the pigeon in any one of your hands. Turn it upside down and tuck its head into your palm. If the bird’s feet remain down and it remains calm, the bird is a female. However, if the bird tries to break free and jumps out of your hand, it’s a male pigeon.

Not the most scientific method, but experts with time, practice, and experience have come up with this unconventional way of determining any pigeon’s gender.

pigeon in hand

3. Sounds

The one thing that goes unnoticed about pigeons is their sound. If you’ve encountered a flock of pigeons ever, you know how much these birds love to coo.

However, the one thing that you may have not observed is that the male coos way more than the female.

This has to do with the fact that females are calmer and hence remain comparatively quieter. The males coo because they are vocal, aggressive and they like to be heard.

pigeon flock

Did You Know?

Pigeons are incredibly social animals, and this is why they are often seen in flocks as large as 20-30 birds.

4. Toes

Yes, you read the heading right! You can tell the gender of a pigeon by its toes. Usually, you will not be able to tell this based on approximation, especially if the pigeon is moving.

Only physical measurement will prove this unless the differences in length are considerable and visible to the human eye.

Observe the male’s side claw in comparison to his forward-facing talons. Typically the side claw should be the same length as the rest. On the other hand, the side claw of a female is intended to be shorter than the front claw.

pigeon toes

5. Vent

The anal vents of males and females are not the same. In males, the top order of the vent protrudes more than the lower order. The female vent is more prominent, but you’ll need strong vision to notice it.

The order for the female is reversed. This is because the female deposits eggs and the lower order of their vent protrudes more than the top order.

anal vent

6. Wing Test

Most of the ways to distinguish between the genders of a pigeon require physical efforts. Therefore, you will rarely be able to judge by mere observations even if you are very patient.

The wing test requires you to pick the bird up by its wings with both hands. While doing so, keep your eyes on the pigeon’s tail. If the tail remains straight, then the bird is a male. If the tail moves in an upward position, the bird in your hand is a female.

pigeon wings

Pro-Tip

While checking the pigeon to decide its gender, do not forget to handle it carefully. If you see any sign of aggression or retaliation, it’s best to let the bird go. Do not try to restrain it.

7. Courtship and Mating

When a male pigeon is around a female pigeon, you will notice that it will attempt to attract the female. The male tries to lure the female by doing tricks and dancing around her.

Studies show that a female will drop its wings to declare the selection of the male she wants to mate with.

The courtship period for the pigeons is elaborate. The male will have his chest pumped up, and you will see it chasing behind another pigeon. The one being chased will be the female.

If you want to know the gender of a pigeon, place it in front of another pigeon. Observe how they are in each other’s company, and their behavior might make it clear for you.

pigeons mating

Just like most animals, the male pigeon will position itself on top of the female while mating. This way of determining the gender can only be employed if you are lucky enough to see the pair at the correct timing.

You will also observe that the female, when ready to mate, will crouch down to show that she’s ready.

  • The Mating Ritual

pigeons courting

This is another one of the rarest visuals that you can get to witness. If you do happen to see this ritual take place, you would now know which one is the female.

Not only does the female approve of the male for mating, but it also approves the nesting site. The male is responsible for choosing the site, but it has to be approved by the female.

You will see the male pigeon flying away and bringing a twig to the female. If she takes it and places it at her feet, that displays her acceptance.

It will take a lot of patience but now that you know the roles both pigeons play during this mating ritual, it will help you determine their respective genders.

pigeon courtship

8. Incubation

Unlike normal cases, the female pigeon does not tend to its eggs alone. Both parents take turns in warming them.

Naturally, the bird that lays the eggs is the female pigeon. But getting to witness the act itself is no short of a miracle. The question is how to determine after the eggs have been laid.

Most people would assume that the bird that is sitting on the eggs should be the female. With pigeons, however, this is not the case.

Here, the difference between the genders isn’t dependent on the act of incubation but rather the timing. Both pigeons, regardless of their gender, take turns sitting on their eggs.

However, this isn’t the most reliable method considering there is a high chance that the pigeons may mix their timings.

pigeon in nest

Typically, if you see a bird incubating its eggs early in the morning, it’s most likely that it’s a male. Females tend to take the afternoon shift and continues for the remaining day, allowing the other parent to feed and rest.

Did You Know?

Both pigeon sexes produce milk that is fed to their young.

What Else Can Be Done to Identify a Pigeon’s Gender?

The gender of a pigeon can be determined in a variety of ways. However, none of these approaches can guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Only genetic testing can ensure a 100% correct result. DNA testing in pigeons can be done by examining their feathers or blood.

So, if you haven’t reached a conclusion based on appearance or other characteristics, conduct a DNA test for the pigeon.

Probably a lengthier and more costly procedure but most efficient and effective.

Keep Reading!

Due to the broad similarities between pigeon genders, it often becomes difficult to distinguish a male from a female. However, a deeper examination of specific characteristics and behaviors would indicate whether it is a male or female.

As a result, it’s critical to understand how to tell the difference between male and female pigeons. There are at least 8 behavioral differences you can observe in mating, sounds, incubation habits, and general mannerisms.

To find the minute differences, it will be wise to equip yourself with backyard bird watching knowledge and gear!

Backyard Bird Watching Essential Gear for Beginners - Fantastic & Amazing Guide

Are you interested in knowing what could make your bird-watching experience enthralling? Read on to find out about the essential gear you need to own.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

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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