Do Pigeons Leave Their Babies?


pigeon nestling alone

Pigeons are very attentive parents, it is extremely rare for them to leave their babies alone in the nest.

There should always be a parent present with the baby pigeons for the first four weeks of their life until they are fledglings and are ready to leave the nest.

Some reasons why a pigeon parents may leave their babies alone in the nest are:

  • Predators nearby have scared them off, common predators that may scare pigeons away from their nest include cats and falcons.
  • A lot of human activity near the nest can also scare them off, lots of people walking too close to the nest, loud voices very near the nest or someone closely watching the nest may scare pigeon parents away.

What To Do If You Find An Abandoned Baby Pigeon

First of all it is important to know whether the pigeon is a fledgling or a nestling.

Nestlings are very young baby pigeons with few feathers, they look like this:

4 day old baby pigeons
4 day old nestlings

Fledglings are pigeons that are a month or older, they will usually have all, or most, of their feathers, their coats will look soft and fluffy due to their immature pin feathers. They look something like this:

fledgling

Finding An Abandoned Pigeon Nestling

Pigeons will not naturally abandon a nestling unless they are very concerned about predators or human interference, so if you find a nestling alone it is likely that they will not survive for long.

If you find a baby pigeon that has been abandoned in its nest, don’t do anything initially, just watch the nest.

It is unusual for both parents to leave the nest at the same time but if they felt that their lives were under threat they may have been forced to leave.

Watch for a few hours and if neither parent returns then it it likely that the baby has been abandoned.

In this case you have three options:

  1. Hand rear the nestling yourself. This is a labour intensive but very rewarding experience, read our article on how to take care of a baby pigeon for a break down of what you need to do and how to do it.
  2. Take the nestling to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center. If you’re based in the U.S use this directory to find the nearest one to you, if you’re based in the U.K the R.S.P.C.A have rehabilitation centres in Norfolk, East Sussex, Cheshire and Somerset.

If you find a nestling abandoned outside of the nest the most common causes of this are:

  • They have accidentally fallen from their nest.
  • They have been pushed out of the nest by their parents. Pigeons sometimes do this or may kill a nestling if it is weak or ill in some way so that they can focus their energy on caring for the healthy nestlings.

In this case your options are:

  1. Return the nestling to the nest. Only do this if you know exactly which nest it fell from and if the baby is strong and healthy.
  2. Hand rear the nestling.
  3. Take the nestling to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.

Finding An Abandoned Pigeon Fledgling

If you find an pigeon fledgling often you don’t need to do anything, their parents may well be nearby.

  • Watch them from a distance, take care not to disturb them or scare them in any way.
  • Usually the fledgling’s parents will be nearby and the fledgling is just exploring and working out how to use its wings.
  • Do not pick the fledging up and try and put it back in it’s nest as this will disturb the other birds.
  • Only pick up the fledgling if its life is in danger from a predator or vehicle.
  • If you need to do this pick it up and move it to a sheltered spot that is within hearing distance of where they were so that they will still be able to find their way back to their parents.

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