Why Do Pigeons Have Red Eyes?


red eyed pigeon

One of the pigeon’s most distinctive features is its red eyes and it’s all down to genetics.

If you’ve ever looked closely at a pigeon, you may have noticed that they have red eyes.

In fact, pigeon eyes can range in color from orange to red and some of them may even present with white or pink eyes.

Knowing more about a pigeon’s genetics and indicators of health can show you whether your pet pigeon or the wild one you’re watching in your yard is developed properly and whether it might be sick or in distress.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about your pigeon’s eyes.

Baby Pigeons

Many people claim they’ve never seen a baby pigeon, but that probably isn’t true.

Baby pigeons stay in the nest much longer than most other species of birds, so by the time they leave the nest, they look much closer to how an adult pigeon appears.

For that reason, you probably have seen a baby and simply didn’t know it.

One of the easiest ways to differentiate a juvenile pigeon from an adult is to look at its eye color. Young pigeons tend to have brown or grey eyes, which will change as they get older.

Orange or Yellow Irises

Most pigeons have red or orange-colored eyes. This is largely due to genetics and that’s why the color is passed from parent pigeons to their babies. The actual eye isn’t red, but the color comes from the concentration of blood vessels that surround the iris of the pigeon’s eye, which is usually yellow or white.

The more blood vessels a pigeon has around the iris, the redder it will look. Fewer blood vessels make the eye look more yellow or orange, which is the bird’s iris showing through. The deep color of a pigeon’s blood vessels can also influence how red the eye looks.

From a distance, most pigeon eyes look the same color, but if you look at them closer, there is quite a bit of variation.

White Irises

Without careful inspection, you’re not likely to know if a pigeon has a white iris or a yellow or orange one. However, if you look closer, you’ll see that many pigeons actually have a white iris, but their eye still appears red due to the blood vessels that surround it.

When the iris is white, the red color may be a bit more pronounced since it’s against the lighter background. Again, the precise shade that your pigeon’s eye will look depends on the concentration of blood vessels surrounding the iris so it may range from lighter to very dark.

Pink Eyes

The only time a pigeon will have true pink eyes is if it suffers from albinism. However, if the pigeon has a white iris and low concentration of blood vessels around it, it can look more of a pink color rather than red.

You will know a pigeon is an albino if it has pink eyes and has white feathers and an ivory beak and talons. This condition, which occurs in many animals and even in humans, results from a lack of pigment production, which results in the white and pink colors of its body.

Genetics of a Pigeon’s Eye

While genetics plays the biggest role in your pigeon’s eye color, sometimes mutations occur and they may look different. Sometimes each eye has the same mutation and sometimes it only affects one of them.

why do pigeons have red eyes

This might be a cracked eye, in which pigment only reaches part of the eye so there’s a clear distinction inside the eye where the colors differ.

Another mutation is a bull eye, which is when a pigeon’s iris is black so the entire eye looks black. Other mutations may cause a pigeon’s eye to look green or brown.

Sometimes these mutations are slight enough that you won’t notice them unless you look closely and other times, they may be quite pronounced. They don’t generally interfere with a pigeon’s eyesight.

 Caring for Your Pigeon’s Eyes

Now that you know why your pigeon’s eyes are the color they are, you should know how to protect their eyesight. Pigeons generally have great vision and can see ultraviolet light. This is why pigeons are often used in missions of the search and rescue variety.

The best way to ensure healthy vision for your pigeon is to provide it with a nutritious diet that contains a protein source, seeds, grains and fruits and vegetables. Premixed seeds for pigeons as well as pigeon pellets are good options.

Learning more about your pigeons and paying attention to their eyes can help you determine if they may be having vision issues. If you worry that there’s a problem, take your pigeon to a veterinarian experienced in treating pigeons. In the meantime, enjoy the color variation that you’ll see among your pet birds.

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