Pigeons can eat bread in moderation but it is not good for them.
A feral pigeon’s natural diet consists of fruits, seeds, grains, and berries.
They may also eat insects, worms, and snails now and then.
Without human interference, the birds get a wide variety of nutrients.
Breadcrumbs don’t have the same range of ingredients, so they’re not as nutritious for the pigeons.
A little bread once in a while won’t do them any harm.
Where the danger comes in is when they eat a diet consisting primarily of bread.
The bread fills the pigeons without providing them enough of the nutrients that they need.
They’ll learn that there’s an easy source of food and so stop looking for their usual food.
This might lead to them becoming malnourished.
What Should You Feed Pigeons?
Feral pigeons in the city find it difficult to find natural sources of grain, fruit, seeds, and berries.
If you have your birds or would like to feed the wild ones, try to use foods from these groups.
You’ll find bird/pigeon food mixes for the purpose at most good pet shops.
The mixes will usually have up to 50% seed at most.
The rest is made up of grains, greens, and sometimes brewer’s yeast.
This mixture provides the calcium that may be lacking in the seeds.
Add Grit For Domestic Birds
If you’re raising pigeons, you’ll need to add a little shell grit as well.
Diets consisting primarily of bread are low in grit (unless it is fed to them on a gravelly floor).
Grit is necessary as birds don’t have teeth and require the grit to break the food down.
In the wild pigeons pick up small stones and gravel naturally.
How a Bird’s Digestion Works & The Problem With Bread
Birds may chip off bits of food, but they must swallow them whole.
They cannot chew because they don’t have teeth. Birds will shred fruit with their beaks.
They’ve also been known to bash their food against a hard surface to break it.
Once the bits of food are manageable, they use their tongues to push the food into their gullet.
That’s why you often see them lifting their heads to swallow.
Once they swallow their food, it moves into their crop.
Think of this as a carrier pouch where excess food is stored.
From there, the bits move slowly into the upper part of the stomach, the proventriculus.
In this section, mucus, digestive enzymes, and gastric acid make the food softer.
It then moves to the gizzard, the second part of the stomach. It’s here that the grit plays its role.
The grit grinds up against the food, breaking it down further.
Interestingly enough, the food may move back and forward between the proventriculus and gizzard a few times to facilitate effective digestion. From there, it moves to the small intestine.
The pancreas and liver then help the body absorb nutrients.
The large intestine, unlike ours, is relatively short (this is one of the theories as to why pigeons dont fart!).
The large and small intestines are joined by pouches known as ceca.
These pouches absorb moisture from the mix and complete digestion.
The problem with bread is that it takes up a lot of space and offers relatively few nutrients to a pigeon.
The pigeon’s proventriculus and gizzard will both be mostly full which will cause the bird to be less interested in searching for more nutritious food.
If they are fed bread on a daily basis this can lead to malnourishment.
There’s a common urban legend that you shouldn’t throw uncooked rice at your wedding. According to this myth, the raw grains swell in the stomach. If the bird overeats, the legend says they’ll explode.
There is a similar myth that birds (mostly ducks however this is also attributed to pigeons) may explode if you over feed them bread.
That’s nonsense. Rice nor bread will cause a pigeon to explode!
Feeding pigeons bread will probably do more harm than good.
Bread, while a staple in parks for many years, provides mostly empty calories.
It lacks the complex carbohydrates and nutrients that the birds need to stay healthy.
It’s better to admire them from afar or consider growing seeds, grains, or berries for them.