For anyone who lives in or near a city, you’re probably familiar with the cooing and wing-flapping of the feral pigeon. These pesky birds thrive near human civilization. But where exactly do pigeons live and go during the day?
Pigeons spend most of the day out foraging for food. They will make several trips back to their nest during the day if they are raising chicks. Pigeons live in roosts that are separate from their nest. Roosts can be found on rooftops, balconies, windowsills, attics, open warehouses, and barns.
Pigeons may seem like dimwitted birds, but they’re actually pretty smart! Let’s check out where these troublesome birds really go and live during the day.
Do Pigeons Come Out During The Day?
A lot of animals have a particular circadian rhythm. They either come out during the day or the night. However, in urban settings, the lines often become a little blurred.
Some animals that are normally active during the day will switch over to nocturnal to avoid people. Pigeons are not one of those animals.
Pigeons can be seen during the day in cities, suburbs, and around farmland. These well-known birds use the day to forage for food, feed their chicks, and deface buildings and statues.
While they’re out foraging for food, pigeons are on the lookout for grains, seeds, and food scraps. They also look for anyone sitting on a bench with a loaf of bread in their hands. Feeding pigeons is considered a recreational activity by some folks living in cities. Flocks of pigeons will all gather around, cooing and bobbing their heads, waiting for free handouts.
But don’t let their bobbing heads and blank eyes fool you into thinking they’re unintelligent!
The reason pigeons bob their heads is to better understand depth perception according to the University of Texas at Austin. The bobbing motion lets them see things from a few different angles, giving them the best understanding of their surroundings.
Like most birds, pigeons have excellent vision. Animals that utilize vision as one of their main senses are typically daytime creatures, and pigeons are no different. They use the nighttime to sleep and rest away from any prying predator eyes.
Where Do Pigeons Sleep?
Our least-favorite city bird uses the day to find food and hang out on buildings, but where do pigeons go when they’re ready to sleep?
Although pigeons build nests when they are ready to mate and lay eggs, they do not use their nests to sleep once chicks have moved out on their own.
Instead, pigeons will sleep in whatever warm, sheltered place they can find that is safe from predators. This often means sleeping on the roof of a building or somewhere high up. They’ll also sneak into crevices and cracks in stone buildings.
Pigeons may sleep in groups to better safeguard themselves against predators, but it’s not unusual to see a lone pigeon sleeping either.
When caring for their young, pigeons will continually guard the nest and sleep in it. However, as soon as the chicks leave, the parent pigeons will abandon the nest and sleep elsewhere.
What Time Do Pigeons Go To Sleep?
Light is a cue for many animals and plants to either wake up or get ready for bed. Light can signal that the day has begun or that it’s ending, and animals will respond. For a pigeon, the setting sun signals them to find a safe place to sleep for the night. The time of day that pigeons find shelter and sleep will depend on the time of year.
During long summer days, pigeons may not go to sleep until 9:30pm when the sun fully sets. But when winter comes around and drags its depressingly short days with it, pigeons may hit the hay as early as 5 or 6 pm.
Remember how we mentioned pigeons have excellent vision? While this is true during the day, it’s not so much true at night.
Granted, the hustle and bustle of city life mean that a lot of the city is lit up at night with artificial light. Despite this, pigeons don’t normally risk coming out at night even under artificial lighting. The risk is too great since their vision is poor in the dark.
However, a recent study was done in the Journal of Animals that took a closer look at how artificial light at night (ALAN) affected feral pigeons. Their studies found that pigeons are starting to come out more and more at night due to the presence of city lights.
Who knows…maybe pigeons will eventually become nocturnal birds in cities! It would certainly be interesting…
Do Pigeons Sleep In The Same Place Every Night?
We know that pigeons don’t sleep in their nests unless they are raising young, and we know they like to find covered, warm, and protected areas to sleep in.
But do pigeons go back to the same sleeping area night after night?
Like most birds, pigeons do not sleep in the same place every night. They frequently sleep in the same area where they strut around during the day. The main reason is that pigeons like to know the area.
As soon as pigeons find a good source of food or a safe area, they’ll stick around until there’s no more food or the area becomes dangerous with predators or traffic.
Pigeons may sleep on the rooftop above their favorite daytime hangout spot or tuck away on a windowsill or balcony nearby. But, they’re never far from where they frequent during the day.
What Do Pigeons Do During The Day?
You may not think pigeons lead very interesting lives and, well, you might be right. During the day, pigeons take care of necessities like eating, resting, and mating.
Pretty standard, right?
But pigeons have made a large enough impact on people that everyone knows about these city-dwellers. What makes pigeons so iconic? Let’s check it out!
Pigeons Look For Food During The Day
Because pigeons have such good vision, they use the daylight hours to their advantage when searching for food.
According to the University of Florida, a pigeon’s favorite foods are grains and seeds. This is why many farmers really really dislike pigeons. The pesky birds will get into livestock feed and contaminate it, making it unusable for their livestock.
Pigeons will also drink from livestock water troughs, further contaminating livestock resources. They’ve even been seen pecking at undigested seeds in livestock feces. They’re not very sanitary, these birds…
Other than livestock grain, pigeons that live in cities and suburbs will feed on food dropped by people. This is one of the reasons pigeons are so prevalent in cities – there is TONS of food available!
City critters like raccoons will assist pigeon populations by knocking over trash cans and revealing food scraps that pigeons will snack on.
Some city folks feed pigeons as a pass time, further encouraging the birds to stick around highly populated areas. Even in suburbs, pigeons can flourish due to birdfeeders and spilled garbage.
You can help eliminate suburban pigeon sightings by avoiding the use of cracked corn, sorghum, and milo seeds in your bird feeders. These are a pigeon’s favorite seeds!
Oh, a quick note, if you need to keep pigeons away from your food or any other area, take a look at our guide on using scents to repel pigeons.
Pigeons Find Mates During The Day
Pigeons typically flock together, forming groups as small as a few dozen to as large as a few thousand birds.
Despite these large numbers, pigeons are monogamous when they mate, meaning they only have one mate at a time. This type of behavior is seen in many different animal and bird species.
However, something that is very different about pigeons is when they mate. Pigeons will mate at any time of the year. This is a unique trait that is rarely true for other animals. Most animals will wait until spring or summer when food is more abundant.
But city birds don’t have that problem. People are always going to drop food, so there’s always an abundance of available food.
Pigeons have a peak breeding season in spring and summer, but it’s not uncommon for them to mate in fall and winter. Both the male and female help with incubation and once the baby pigeons are born, both parents help feed and take care of them.
And in case you were interested, baby pigeons are called squabs…not the most flattering of names!
Pigeons Build Their Nest During The Day
Despite what many people think, birds do not live in their nests when they are not incubating or raising young. Instead, they’ll find a roosting location wherever is convenient.
But, when birds are ready to lay their eggs, they need a nest. Pigeons are rather sloppy with their nests, constructing them loosely of twigs, grass, straw, feathers, and whatever else they can find to pad the nest.
Nests are typically located on man-made buildings and structures. Pigeons will seek out areas that are similar to where they’d build nests in the wild.
In the wild, pigeons would nest on protected cliffs along coastlines and inside caves and rock face crevices. Cities provide buildings and structures similar to these wild habitats in the form of tall buildings, bridges, overpasses, open warehouses, and abandoned buildings.
Pigeons will collect materials during the day and put together their nests. The male may help with this. An extra set of claws never hurt, right?
If you’re having trouble with pigeons building nests on or in your home or workspace, you can try something like OFFO’s Stainless Steel Bird Spikes.
These are meant to discourage birds from roosting or nesting on areas such as rooftops, crevices, the tops of barns, or any other area you’ve seen pigeons roosting. The spikes are blunted and will not harm the bird. Instead, it will simply discourage it from landing. This product can be attached to surfaces in a variety of ways including screws, zip ties, glue, or double-sided tape.
If you have a barn or warehouse to protect, you can use hardware cloth like TOOCAPRO 1.5” x 1.5” Black Vinyl Coated Wire Mesh. Affix the net across the top beams of the building, beneath the angled sections to prevent pigeons from roosting in the rafters.
Pigeons Take Care Of Their Young During The Day
Baby pigeons (squabs) grow quickly and robustly, but the nesting period takes longer than many other birds, lasting up to 45 days. For comparison, small songbirds take about 2 weeks to leave the nest and larger birds like woodpeckers take about 3 weeks.
Pigeons typically lay 1-2 eggs at a time. The eggs are unmarked, white, and glossy. During the day, mom and dad will take turns incubating the eggs while the other goes out and looks for food.
After about 18 days, the eggs hatch, and the squabs start complaining immediately about the lack of food upon being born.
Like most birds, pigeons regurgitate food to feed their young. The interesting part is that this regurgitation isn’t of food eaten by the parents, but of their ‘pigeon milk.’ One of the reasons squabs grow so fast (about 0.17 grams per day!) is because of this substance.
It might be called pigeon milk, but the substance is not actually milk.
According to an article in the Journal of World’s Poultry Science, pigeon milk consists of roughly 15% protein and 8% fat, with few carbohydrates. The milk also has antibodies to help squabs fight off any bacteria or viruses.
The high protein and fat content help squabs grow quickly. Remember how we mentioned they grow about 0.17 grams per day? To put that into perspective, quails grow about .08 grams per day and chickens grow 0.05 grams per day.
Pigeons Deface Buildings And Statues During The Day
This may sound like a silly topic to talk about, but pigeons cause a lot of damage with their droppings!
According to an article in the Journal of Animals, the average pigeon does around $37 worth of damage per year. No big deal, right? But, considering how many pigeons there are, that equals out to roughly 1.1 billion dollars per year worth of damage!
Pigeons like to hang out in the most inconvenient places. For example:
- Directly above your car
- Above your window
- On your balcony
- On a statue
- On a memorial
- On a store sign
And in no time at all, they’re going to do you-know-what.
Pigeon droppings are unsightly on buildings and statues, but they can also be corrosive to cars, buildings, facades, and farm equipment. Pigeons can also make their way into homes via a missing or damaged roofing panel, wreaking havoc indoors.
If you’re having problems with pigeons on your balcony, you can check out our article 11 Easy Tips To Stop Pigeons From Pooping On Your Balcony. The tips in this article can help you out with pigeon problems in other places as well!
How far do pigeons travel in a day?
Thousands of years ago, pigeons were used all the time to deliver important messages like the winner of the Ancient Olympics, messages between armies and comrades, and messages to world leaders.
You might be surprised to hear that the last messenger pigeon was used just a few short years ago in 2006!
Pigeons can travel several hundred miles a day. These Olympic-level flyers were selectively bred for speed and endurance back in the day, so today’s feral population has those same genetics coursing through them.
But just because pigeons can fly 800 miles a day doesn’t mean they want to. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the average home range of a pigeon is less than one square mile.
If pigeons can’t find food within that square mile, they will travel further to find it. Because pigeon populations are so dense within cities, food scarcity can cause pigeons to fly more than ten miles in search of food.
What Time Of Day Are Pigeons Most Active?
City pigeons are pretty well fed during the warmer months when people are out and about in the streets dropping food and spilling crumbs everywhere. It comes as no surprise that a pigeon’s schedule is in sync with humans.
Even though pigeons are active all day long, they are most active in the morning. This is the time when they leave their roost and start looking for spilled food from the night before.
Pigeons tend to slow down in the evening, becoming less and less active until the sun sets and they are finally ready to find a roosting spot to sleep.
What Else Do Pigeons Do?
Despite being described by many as nothing more than ‘rats with wings,’ pigeons are pretty interesting and useful birds that have a long history of living side by side with humans.
So, besides looking for food, mating, caring for their young, and making a mess on buildings and windshields, what else do pigeons do?
- Pigeons are related to doves and the dodo bird: Pigeons are part of the family Columbidae, which encompasses two broad bird species – the pigeon and the dove. Sometimes pigeons are even called ‘rock doves.’ Pigeons are also closely related to the extinct dodo bird.
- Pigeons can live up to 15 years: Captive pigeons used for breeding or poultry can live up to 15 years. In the wild, pigeons typically live between 3 and 5 years.
- Two pigeons have received medals for wartime bravery: In WWI & WWII, pigeons were used to deliver messages. A pigeon named Cher Ami helped rescue 194 U.S. soldiers in 1918. Another pigeon named GI Joe helped stop a bombing that would have killed over 100 Allied soldiers. Both birds were awarded medals for their bravery.
- Pigeons use magnetic fields to navigate: Pigeons can find their way back home after traveling 1300 miles away. It’s thought that this incredible navigation system in a pigeon’s brain is guided by the earth’s magnetic field.
- Peregrine falcons are a pigeon’s number one predator: pigeons make up about 80% of urban peregrine falcon diets.
That’s A Wrap!
Now you know more than you probably needed (or wanted) to know about pigeons. But you have to admit, they’re pretty interesting, right? I mean, being awarded a medal for bravery is legit!
To recap the article, here’s where pigeons really go and live during the day:
- Look for food
- Feed their young
- Build nests
- Aim droppings at buildings and statues (and your car)
- Find mates
- Rest in a roosting area (rooftop, barn, open warehouse, balcony, crack, crevice)
If you’re having problems with pigeons, you can always use something like bird spikes to keep them from roosting and nesting on your property.
Gels and sticky pads are not recommended as these can harm the birds and catch non-target species like other birds, squirrels, or lizards.
If you can’t seem to get rid of those pesky pigeons, you can always reach out to a professional for additional help. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a wildlife control professional near you!
Haag-Wackernagel, D., & Geigenfeind, I. (2008). Protecting buildings against feral pigeons. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 54, 715-721.
Leveau, L. M. (2020, March 26). Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) Is the Main Driver of Nocturnal Feral Pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica) Foraging in Urban Areas. Animals, 10(4), 554.
Przybylska, K., Haidt, A., Myczko, T., Ekner-Grzyb, A., Rosin, Z. M., Kwiecinski, Z., Takacs, V., Jankowiak, T., Tobotka, M., Wasielewski, O., Graclik, A., Krawczyk, A. J., Kasprzak, A., Szwajkowski, P., Wylegala, P., Malecha, A. W., Mizera, T., & Skorka, P. (2012, June). Local and landscape-level factors affecting the density and distribution of the Feral Pigeon Columba livia var. domestica in an urban environment. Acta Ornithologica, 47(1), 37-45.
Sales, J., & Janssens, G. P. (2007, September 18). Nutrition of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica). World’s Poultry Science Journal, 59(2), 221-232.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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