What Do Pigeons Eat?


what do pigeons eat

Pigeons eat seeds and grains, the same as other birds.

Fortunately, pigeons aren’t picky eaters and so ‘seeds and grains’ can cover a whole variety of cultivated crops and flowering plants that produce seeds. 

Woodland pigeons have a buffet of things available to eat in the wild, depending on their home territory.

For example, in Britain, although only a small country there is a wealth of feeding options because of the different kinds of crops raised.

Pigeons are opportunist feeders. They aren’t tied to a certain type of food or seek out anything in particular. They are scavengers.

This reputation is largely due to the urban pigeons that dwell in our towns and cities.

In the urban and suburban areas, they are exposed to the whole range of man-made food, not just the traditional type of crops they find in the countryside that have been cultivated by mankind for thousands of years.

A Healthy Pigeon Diet

To survive in a healthy condition, pigeons need proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Seeds and grains ideally should only constitute 50% of a pigeon’s diet.

They also need the nutrition that is obtained from fruits, berries, and insects.

Pigeons are known to be susceptible to calcium deficiency, owners of racing pigeon lofts or pet pigeons should be aware of this and give their birds the well-balanced diet that they need.

pigeons eating

Feral pigeons have to fend for themselves and find whatever food resources they can. It is doubtful that any of those have what can be considered a well-balanced diet.

For them, it is a question of both abundance and scarcity.

They may find an abundant source of food rich in some of the carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins that they need, but probably not the full nutritional range to maintain optimum health. Unlike their captive brethren, the varied nutrients may come in fits and starts.

That is why there is a wide disparity of lifespan between pet and feral pigeons.

You can imagine that the lifespan of an urban pigeon is even shorter than that of its country cousins for this reason.

What To Feed A Pet Pigeon

There are plenty of commercially produced pigeon feeds with the correct nutritional balances to keep your pet pigeons healthy.

Although many pigeon owners may buy this kind of food, others would prefer to personally prepare the meals that they give their pets.

In that case, there is a wide variety of seeds that can easily be bought.

pigeon eating

To be sure that your bird is getting the best possible range of nutrients mix different kinds of seeds together. Each kind has its own properties.

It seems that pigeons can eat seeds from almost any flowering plant so that there is a great deal of choice. Sunflower seeds are a great favourite because they are readily available, but others, such as Safflower are also a good choice.

If you want to take the alimentation of your pigeons a step further you can go to any rural or green area and harvest wildflower seeds.

Pigeons & Grains

Grains come in all types and are easy to find. The variety includes wheat, corn, barley, millet, rye, oats – essentially, anything that is classed as a cereal crop.

A mix of different types of seeds, plus a mix of different types of grain should make up only half your pigeon’s daily diet.

Chopped up vegetables are good to add too. Almost anything that is naturally available will do, but it is better to use those kinds that don’t absorb a lot of water. Pigeons are known to eat both spinach and peas.

pigeons eating grain

Fruits and berries will also add to a balanced diet. Although pigeons aren’t known as great fruit eaters, they still do. An easy supplement to their diet is apples, but don’t include the seeds as they aren’t good for pigeons.

Avocado is one of those exotic fruits that shouldn’t be given to your pet pigeon either. It contains a chemical called persin, which is toxic to pigeons.

Pigeons will eat the occasional insect as a meal too. These provide protein for the birds, so the occasional bug of some kind can be put in their feed. It has been noted that brooding females are partial to snails.

City Pigeon Diets

City pigeons will eat almost anything that they find laying around on our pavements or back alleys. Born and bred in the smog and grime of our towns, they have learned to adapt.

As society’s eating habits and food production has changed so have the eating habits of the feral pigeons. City pigeons scoff mass-produced bread and the more exotic types like pita and naan.

what do pigeons eat in the city

There are also noodles and pasta to be had, not to mention biscuit and wafer crumbs.

Foods that contain sodium, and there are a lot, are bad for them because they can’t be digested by their alimentary systems.

Vital Nutrients That Should Be Including In A Pigeons Diet

Pet pigeons should be given multivitamins and particularly, those that contain vitamin D3 and calcium.

Vitamin D3 is a substitute for the direct sunlight that they may not receive because they are indoor birds or spend much of their time in lofts.

pigeons eating from a bird feeder

If they are deficient in vitamin D3 they can also have problems producing calcium. Without the vitamin D3, even if you include calcium supplements, it still may not be sufficient.

The result can lead to neurological problems, brittle bones, and the laying of eggs with soft shells.

Avoid an all-seed diet, as that leads to vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A helps the skin and membranes inside the pigeon’s body stay healthy, from the beak all through to the anus. Vitamin C is usually produced by pigeons in healthy quantities.

If your bird is weak for some reason, because of some ailment, would probably need to supplement vitamin C.  Supplements of both vitamin E and K are advised too.

Summary

After many years of observation and research, people who have an interest in pigeons have concluded what are the natural food resources of these birds and why they eat them.

Luckily for pigeon fanciers, there is plenty of literature on the subject and advice columns.

Supplying a well-balanced diet for your pigeons isn’t difficult, even if you prefer the hands-on DIY approach.

There are also plenty of commercially produced feeds that will contain all the nutritional elements that your birds need.

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