Why aren’t there any baby pigeons around? What happened to them?
Any large city in the globe will likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of head-bobbing pigeons in its squares. Despite their numbers, their chicks are seldom seen. Why is that?
The pigeons you see in the streets eating leftover pizza and ice cream are mostly stray birds (Columba livia domestica). The wild rock dove, the world’s oldest domesticated bird, nests and breeds on sea cliffs and rocky mountain crevasses throughout Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Although feral pigeons now prefer to congregate in large cities rather than along rocky coastlines, they still prefer to nest in the high-up edges and holes of buildings, which is one of the reasons for their rarity.
“You’re only likely to see newborn pigeons if you can see into a nest,” Debra Kriensky, a conservation biologist with the NYC Audubon Society, told IFLScience. “They are quite huge by the time they leave the nest and resemble adult birds more than chicks.”
“Pigeons are born without feathers and must grow them before leaving the nest,” said Martin Fowlie of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). “Like other nest-building animals, they stay in their nests until they are able to fly.”
Pigeon babies also mature more quickly than other birds, at least in terms of appearance.
Pigeon babies, on the other hand, are a touch spoilt. Unlike most songbirds, which spend two to three weeks in the nest, pigeons stay in the warmth of the mother’s quarters for at least three weeks and up to six weeks, according to Marc Devokaitis, public information specialist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York.
When they leave the nest, the juvenile pigeons look more like adults than other birds, he added.
Even if fledging pigeons hopped out of their nests now and then, they’d still be hidden from passers-by on the ground, whereas other birds with less lofty nests might be observed on the ground or perched on a shrub quickly after they fledge.
You might be able to detect some of those teenagers if you keep an eye out: Look for non-molted feathers, black eyes (adults have reddish-orangish eyes), and tapering main feathers (the longest feathers on the bird’s wing). Best of luck!