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What do pigeons eat?

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  • Pigeons eat grass, leafy greens, berries, herbs, fruits, berries, grains, weeds, insects and worms.
  • Feeding pigeons bread is not a good idea for a number of reasons. It is best to set up a terrarium with healthy food for the pigeons.
  • Feral pigeons eat millet, ground corn, sunflower seeds and sorghum.
  • Pigeons in cities look around for anything they can find. Their diet consists of insects, spiders, worms, small seeds, and human leftovers, among other things.
what do pigeons eat 1
Pigeons eat insects, worms, seeds and grains.

© AZ-Animals.com

Pigeons are stout birds with fleshy beaks and large wings. Some of the best-known species congregate near human towns, including the common wood pigeon, rock pigeon and mourning pigeon, but there are actually about 340 species with a global distribution, many of which are native to the Asia-Pacific region and rarely seen by humans. Pigeons are so widespread and diverse that it is difficult to generalize anything specific about their diet as a whole, but this article will attempt to cover some general information about what and how they eat, whether they live in cities or in the wilderness.

A quick note on term usage: English sometimes distinguishes doves from doves based on their size. Pigeons tend to be the larger of the two. However, there is no real scientific basis for this distinction, or even consistent application. For example, rock doves are also called rock pigeons. This article will cover any member of the dove family, be it pigeons or doves.

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What do pigeons eat?

Pigeons are sometimes described as true omnivores (meaning they eat both plants and meat; actually pretty much anything they can find). But in reality, their entire diet consists almost entirely of plant-based substances, including grains, grasses, green leafy vegetables, herbs, weeds, fruits, and berries. They occasionally eat insects, snails and earthworms as supplements.

The composition of the diet really depends on the location. Pigeons located near the tropics tend to eat more fruit than seeds and therefore spend a lot of time foraging in trees. On the other hand, many temperate species get most of their nutrition from seeds. The common mourning pigeon's diet consists of only about 99 percent seeds, including cultivated grains and peanuts. It is estimated that they expend about 12% to 20% of their body weight each day. This equates to an average of about 71 calories.

The pigeon's anatomy is perfectly adapted to utilize the food around it. Animals that eat large amounts of seeds and grains tend to rely heavily on their gizzard, a specialized organ located near the digestive system, to grind up tough foods. Their guts are longer and can break down and absorb complex carbohydrates. They were also more likely to forage on the ground. On the other hand, people who eat a lot of fruit usually have shorter guts and thinner gizzards; they also have a greater ability to cling to branches and hang upside down, so they are better able to get fruit from the tree.

Before they reach adulthood, young pigeons are known to eat a substance called pigeon milk. This is not real milk, but a semi-solid reflux substance that is extremely high in protein and fat and helps hatchlings grow to full size. Young birds consume this "milk" during the first few days of life, and are then gradually weaned to receive seeds and other food. It may take several weeks for young birds to fully digest adult food.

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Pigeons are thought to play an important ecological role in the wild by dispersing uneaten seeds throughout the environment.

Is bread bad for pigeons?

Pigeons consume about 12-20% of their body weight per day.

©iStock.com/Ivan Murauyou

Pigeons can eat bread, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should. While sitting on a park bench and feeding pigeons with bread can be very tempting and even enjoyable, some experts are against the practice because it can sometimes create more problems than it solves. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that many artificial breads do not necessarily contain all the nutritional value that pigeons need. The second reason is that it may attract other animals and pests besides pigeons. Third, it can easily lead to overcrowding, as whole flocks of birds congregate and compete for free food. Finally, bread may make pigeons more reliant on human kindness, which would diminish their natural ability to forage (even if they're just foraging for leftovers from humans).

If you plan to help pigeons, it's a good idea to keep a small feeding box in your yard so that a few birds can enjoy an occasional meal at their leisure.

What should you feed feral pigeons?

Pigeons should like a combination of wheat, ground corn, sunflower seeds, sorghum and millet. To maximize their attraction, you may want to sprinkle the seeds on the ground or place them in some sort of tray or platform feeder where the birds can easily perch. Dense shrubs or evergreen trees near your yard can serve as potential nesting sites for pigeons to approach. Putting up a nesting cone might also attract a whole pair. They like to have a water basin with a ledge nearby.

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What do pigeons eat in the city?

Urban pigeons in cities tend to feed on small seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects, spiders, worms, and even food leftovers from humans. Many of them are especially adapted to urban environments, which are slightly different from wild environments. If you are keeping a domestic pigeon as a pet, you may need to provide it with a pellet-based diet along with some fruits and vegetables to meet its nutritional needs. Products labeled as a seed mixture are not necessarily what wild birds eat. They may be deficient in some important nutrients.

What eats pigeons?

The composition of a pigeon's diet depends on the location.


Humans have been the biggest predators of pigeons for centuries. In the 12th century, pigeons were considered a delicacy for the nobility. In the 16th century attitudes changed and pigeons were fed to the poor. Jump forward to the 20th century and pigeons were considered pests. Pigeon hunting even led to the extinction of the American passenger pigeon.

Pigeons are preyed on by many other animals in nature, including birds of prey such as falcons and hawks. These eggs are also eaten by crows, ravens, spotted sandpipers, house cats, snakes and rodents.

Complete list of 10 favorite foods for pigeons

The diet of pigeons is long and varied. This is by no means an exhaustive food list, but it should give you an idea of what most pigeons eat.

  • seeds and grains
  • Grass
  • weeds
  • green vegetables
  • herbs
  • fruit
  • berry
  • insect
  • snails
  • earthworm


  • What Do Hummingbirds Eat? Tiny hummingbirds must eat every 15 minutes to fuel those wings.
  • What do robins eat? Top foods in their diet You may have a mockingbird living in your yard. Find out what type of food to put in your feeder here!
  • What do lovebirds eat? Lovebirds are known for being monogamous. Find out what these twins like to eat.

More from AZ Animals

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Rock pigeon sitting on the roof
Rock pigeon sitting on the roof

© iStock.com/Christian Sturzenegger

about the author

heather ross

Heather Ross is a middle school English teacher and mother of 2 people, 2 tuxedo cats and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading homework, she loves reading and writing about all things animals!

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