Pigeons are not a native species of the United States; they were first introduced in the early 1600’s. They are a common urban pest, though they are also found living in rural areas. These pest birds are found living throughout the United States and have a statewide distribution here in Missouri.
Pigeons are also commonly called “rock doves.” Adults grow to be between 11 and 12 ½ inches in length and weigh up to about 13 ounces. Color variations exist depending on the specific species; but in general, they have a light gray body with a darker colored head, shoulders, and breast. Some may have rust or metallic colored feathers going across their breast, neck, and head. They also have 2 distinctive dark bars going across their wings with another dark bar going across their tail. Their beak is grayish-pink in color.
Pigeons find a mate that they stay with for life; if their partner dies, they will eventually find a new mate. Pigeons can mate year-round depending on the availability of food. The male creates a nest for the female to lay her eggs in; nests are typically built in city parks, on or in buildings, in warehouses, under roof eaves, in barns, and in the spaces found in rocky cliffs.
After mating, the female will lay 1-3 eggs in the nest. Both the male and female will take turns incubating the eggs for about 19 days until they hatch. The young are then fed by both parents with a milky substance that they regurgitate. The young pigeons will leave their nest after about 1 month.
Pigeons are responsible for carrying and transmitting a variety of dangerous diseases to people when contact with their contaminated feces occurs. Cryptococcosis, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, psittacosis and histoplasmosis can all be spread by pigeons; they also have a type of fungus that grows in their feces which can cause histomplasmosis.
Pigeons create their nests out of twigs, grass, paper, and other items that they find. When the nests are first built they are weak, but the nests are often used over and over again and the build-up of feces and other debris strengthens the nest greatly.
Pigeons prefer to feed on seeds, but they will eat basically anything that they are fed or happen to come across. Bird seed, popcorn, bread, French fries, pizza crusts, and peanuts can all be a part of a pigeon’s diet. Pigeons leave their nests to feed in the morning and late afternoon. They then return to their nests and stay in them overnight. Pigeons are typically seen walking around city sidewalks and parking lots- usually in large groups or flocks. They are also commonly seen foraging for seeds and grains on farms.
Pigeons are a dangerous pest to invade your home or property; they can damage roof eaves, gutters, and ventilation systems with their nests and corrosive feces. The droppings can build up on the ground and be unsightly to look at and can cause slip and fall accidents. They will also introduce other parasites onto your property like fleas, ticks, and mites.