Yes pigeons do blink, but not as we understand blinking.
They have eyelids but they don’t use them to blink.
Instead, they have a third eyelid, which is called a ‘nictitating membrane’, from the ancient Greek word to ‘clean’.
It is a translucent film or lid that sweeps across the eyeball from one side to another, horizontally.
In the case of pigeons it moves across the eye from the direction of the beak.
The action of the membrane isn’t automatic and unconscious. It is a controlled action that pigeons use for various reasons.
It Is Difficult To See A Pigeon Blink
It is very difficult to see if a pigeon blinks or not, this is because:
- The eyes of pigeons are tiny.
- The nictitating membrane is transparent.
- The action is so rapid that it is undetected by the human eye.
- Pigeons usually use the membrane when they are moving their heads.
As they turn their heads or bob in quick jerky movements, the membrane helps clear their vision of blurring and refocusing caused by their rapid actions.
Reasons Why Pigeons Blink
Like humans, pigeons use the membrane to clean or clear their eyeballs and it lubricates the eye.
It also provides protection against the elements, such as wind, rain or blown dust.
They will also use it when pecking on the ground for food.
The ground, whether in the countryside or the city pavements are coated with grit and other debris, some of which could rebound and cause harm to the pigeon’s eyes.