The short answer is anything and everything!
British pigeons have an advantage over other city pigeons due to various Acts of Parliament.
British cities have to have a certain amount of green land set aside for recreational purposes.
That, and the popularity of allotments, gardening and those kind people who set out bird feeders, help.
But is that really enough? What else do feral urban pigeons eat?
1. Throwaway Food
In almost every tourist site or place of interest, there’s usually some enterprising soul that is selling birdseed to feed the pigeons for a few pennies.
Historical sites, especially famous squares are usually littered with seed, thrown by gleeful children.
Seeds are the ideal food for a pigeon, but given the sheer numbers of pigeons that infest our cities, is that enough to feed all?
That is doubtful. So, what resources do those hungry pigeons turn to?
Human food waste of course.
Food that is dropped or thrown away.
Pavements and dustbins are buffets for pigeons.
2. Burger and Fries
Although omnivorous, which means they gobble up anything, pigeons can’t eat meat.
They don’t have teeth to grind it up into manageable pieces to digest.
As we all know, they do eat breadcrumbs, despite the fact that bread has no nutritional benefit for them.
Burgers come with other goodies, not just a meat patty.
There’s lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.
With the increasing trend to eat fast food in our culture and the fashion of take-away food, it’s pretty clear that pigeons have easy access to it.
Imagine how many burgers are churned in one city per day. How much is inadvertently dropped?
How many half eaten meals are thrown in waste bins?
Supposedly, pigeons can’t eat fried food, but we’ve all seen them pecking away at abandoned French fries.
Pizzas come with all sorts of toppings, not only meat.
There are vegetarian pizzas and all are sprinkled with different types of green ingredients.
A Hawaiian has pineapple.
Pigeons aren’t supposed to eat cooked food, but what about baked vegetables?
The base of a pizza is made of flour, a ground up grain mixed with water.
Apart from meat, kebabs are full of vegetable ingredients.
The pitta bread is of a much better nutritional benefit than a hamburger bun or most sandwich bread.
5. Chinese Food
The good old Chinese take-away has become an enduring favourite in our culture.
Chinese food is basically quick fried or boiled.
Forget about the fried ingredients and just think about the boiled food. Rice and noodles are all easily digestible.
What about all those shrimps and prawns? How many Chinese restaurants or take-aways can you find in the cities?
There has been an urban myth floating around for years that claims that pigeons can’t eat rice.
The premise is that because rice absorbs water the grains will expand in their tiny stomachs when they drink liquids.
Apparently, that will cause them to explode. Have you seen a lot of exploded pigeons lying around outside Chinese restaurants lately?
This is false, don’t believe it.
Indian food is similar, with many vegetarian and rice-based dishes.
It is said that pigeons are partial to popcorn also.
Aren’t we all?
You can just imagine a pair of pigeons winging their way down to the local cinema to check out the features.
If they are showing something popular, attracting a lot of film lovers, then it may be worth hanging around to scavenge all that dropped popcorn!
You can imagine that dropped ice-cream cones, wafers and biscuits will go down well too.
7. Kitchen Waste
Around the back of any type of restaurant or commercial catering concern there are left-overs and the remnants of chopped up fruit and vegetables.
Not all will be nicely bagged up and put carefully in the bins.
Pigeons probably have their own restaurant preferences, just like we do.
While we humans are eating in the front, the pigeons are cadging what they can in the back.
In the absence of grains, seeds and other natural produce in the cities that pigeons would normally eat, the wily pigeon has had to adapt.
It is well known, certainly among pigeon fanciers and scientists that pigeons are intelligent and are capable of learning.
So, it should be no surprise that they supplement their diets with foods that aren’t insects or spiders.
You can imagine that cockroaches and flies will get a bit boring after a while.
The pigeons we are talking about are cosmopolitan, they embrace what the city has to offer.
They are fast food and take-away gourmets.