How Long Pigeons Nest For (And If They Reuse The Same One)

Pigeon sitting in nest incubating her egg

If you’ve recently moved to a new area and noticed pigeons nesting nearby, or you have lived somewhere for a while and noticed pigeons always seem to be nesting, you’re probably wondering how long they nest for and if they reuse the same nest. Thankfully, we’ve got the answer!

Pigeons mate for life, and the pair will build a nest together as a part of the mating process. Once they have picked each other and constructed a nest, they will continue to use that nest for life. Pigeons will continue to lay eggs year-round, rarely taking a break from raising their young.

Keep on reading, and we’ll cover more in-depth about pigeon nesting habits, how long they use a nest, details about them reusing nests, and how to prevent them from nesting nearby.

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Why Do Pigeons Nest Anyways?

Wood pigeons, pair of birds mating ritual in a UK garden

To understand how long pigeons nest, it’s good to know why they nest and the behavior related to nesting. Pigeons are slightly different from other birds, and their nesting behaviors mirror those differences.

You also know that if pigeons are common in your area, they can have nests everywhere. In big cities, pigeons are such a problem that many people call them “rats of the sky” due to their large numbers and generally unsanitary nature.

Many people find that pigeons nest in large numbers around parks, grain elevators, and other buildings where their droppings might be a problem.

The University of Missouri Extension mentions that their droppings are unsightly, a problem to plants, corrosive, and can destroy buildings and structures.

Nesting Provides Pigeons A Safe Place To Raise Their Young

The most apparent reason you might expect pigeons to nest is that it gives them an excellent place to raise their offspring.

Baby pigeons, known as squabs, are delicate and require a safe place to grow before they are ready to leave the nest.

Pigeons usually nest in flat, dry areas as high up as possible. In nature, this might include cliffs and large trees, but cities provide many ideal locations on top of buildings and in gutters.

Nesting In These Areas Provide Safety For The Parent Pigeons

Nesting in these safe and secluded areas also provides safety for the parents. Since pigeons have fewer predators to worry about when nesting, it gives them a safe place to relax and focus on their young.

After laying her eggs, the female pigeon will sit on them for the first 24 hours, and then the male will take turns with her providing constant incubation.

Receiving mutual care from both parents provides the best chance for their offspring to survive and continue the cycle.

Nesting Is A Part Of Pigeon Courtship Behavior

Pigeons mate for life, and building a nest with their partner is part of their courtship behavior.

The male will select a suitable spot and slowly start building the nest in the hopes that a female pigeon will see his nesting spot and agree it is suitable to raise young. 

After two pigeons agree to build a nest together, they will continue to collect twigs, straw, grass, and anything else they think will make good nesting material. The female will stay on the spot they choose to build the nest while the male brings her building materials one at a time.

Nesting locations are most commonly on flat man-made structures or cliffs, and a pigeon will rarely choose to nest in a tree. Barn rafters are another common spot that pigeons might choose in a more rural setting, where tall buildings and other flat areas are uncommon.

You can read more about the most common places where pigeons live if you’d like!

Pigeons Often Nest As Communities

Pigeons are social birds who often live in large flocks. While they are not as communal as other birds and will not share nests with other pairs, it is not uncommon to find many pairs of pigeons nesting in the same general vicinity.

Nesting in large groups is important for pigeons to stay safe, serving as a warning system for predators. Most pigeons will nest in areas that offer protection from predators, but there is also safety in numbers.

Another reason pigeons nest in communities is their large populations and limited suitable nesting locations.

In large cities, there may be millions of pigeons and only thousands of suitable roofs, meaning that some will have to share areas!

So, How Long Do Pigeons Nest For?

Wood pigeons, pair of birds mating ritual in a UK garden

To answer the main question of this article, how long pigeons nest for, there are a couple of different components:

Squabs and how long they nest before leaving the nest, how long it takes them to nest, and how long the parent pigeons nest.

And get this – pigeons don’t actually sleep in their nests unless they’re mating. If you’re interested in learning more about where pigeons go during the day and night, head on over to our article!

It Takes Only 18 Days For Pigeons To Hatch

Once two pigeons decide to breed, which is a lifelong process, it takes only 18 days from when the eggs are laid to when they hatch. This is on the shorter end of the spectrum for birds and is even three days shorter than a chicken’s incubation period.

Eighteen days is consistent across most pigeon species, although 17-19 is a more accurate range to account for outliers.

A typical clutch of eggs will contain 1-3 eggs, with two being the most common. In rare cases, a pigeon might have two separate nests, and she will lay two eggs in each nest, but having one nest is much more common.

Squabs Take About A Month To Leave The Nest

After an egg hatches, the nestling that emerges is known as a squab, and these baby pigeons will remain in the nest until they develop their feathers and are ready to leave the nest.

In the summer months, a squab will be ready to leave the nest about 3-4 weeks but during winter, this period may be increased to just over a month.

Pigeons grow fast, and after this time, they look just like adult pigeons, which is why it is rare anyone sees a baby pigeon.

Squabs will not leave the nest for any reason until they are fully developed and rely on crop milk from their parents for nourishment for the first ten days. Crop milk is the term that refers to the regurgitated food that baby birds eat.

After ten days, they will be ready to eat the same food as their parents, digesting their own worms/scraps/insects.

Adult Pigeons Will Nest Year-Round

Unfortunately for many homeowners, pigeons will nest all year.

After each clutch of birds leaves the nest, they will lay another, meaning pigeons have, on average, six clutches per year.

Between their high reproduction rate and fast time to maturity, it is no wonder that pigeons have taken over as much as they have. In cities especially, these birds have few natural predators around, increasing their ability to maintain a large population.

Yes, Pigeons Often Reuse The Same Nest

homing pigeon feeding crop milk to new born pigeon in home nest.

Since we’ve covered that pigeons will reproduce year-round and nest nonstop, you’re probably wondering how long they will use the same nest.

Do they make new nests after a year? And what happens to any waste material that is left in their nests? Let’s talk about it!

Pigeons Mate For Life, And Will Use The Same Nest

Pigeons mate for life and that pair of pigeons will always use the same nest they made together unless something happens to it.

If left alone a pigeon couple will use the same nest for up to 15 years, which would be a lengthy lifespan for wild pigeons.

While pigeons mate for life, if something happens to one of them, the remaining pigeon will search for a new partner.

It may take weeks or even months for a pigeon to notice something has happened to its partner, and afterward, it will go through the same process as finding a mate the first time.

Pigeons Do Not Clean Their Nests

One of the grossest aspects of pigeon nesting is that they will not clean the nest, so any droppings, unhatched eggs, and even mummified babies will continue to build up.

Pigeon nests can be several years old of constantly caked on materials, creating a rock-hard mound that is glued in place.

This is uncommon among birds who use the same nest repeatedly, as many will carry out droppings and other waste between clutches to maintain a clean nesting area.

It is relatively uncommon for birds to use the same nest clutch after clutch, with many birds opting to construct a new nest.

How To Keep Pigeons From Nesting On Your Property

Parents, pigeons and offspring. Two baby pigeons and an old pigeon feeding them.

To keep pigeons from nesting on your property, the easiest way is to prevent them from forming nests in the first place, as removing their nests can be difficult or even illegal.

You should focus on making the nearby area a non-ideal place for pigeons first using physical or visual deterrents. 

If you are having a true pigeon problem and are not sure how to go about it, we recommend contacting a professional for assistance with your situation.

Removal Of Their Nests Is Sometimes An Option

Removing pigeon nests might be necessary; however, there are many things to watch out for before eliminating nests.

Abandoned nests will be easier to remove and less protected, but pigeons are protected animals in many places.

Local regulations play a huge part in whether you are allowed to remove pigeon nests, and in many cases, you’ll need to call a wildlife professional to take care of the problem.

Even for nests that seem abandoned, you may still require special permission to remove them. Make sure to contact your local town or county office to see about nest removal regulations.

Take a look at our guide to keeping pigeons off your balcony if that’s a specific need you have.

Make Your House And Yard Undesirable To Pigeons

Preventing will go further than trying to remove nests, and one of the most common ways to achieve this is using spikes and slants. Any option that makes it impossible for pigeons to access an area or construct a nest will work well here.

Spikes work well because pigeons cannot roost or land where the spikes are and are easy to add to most roofs or other flat surfaces. Typically these spikes are made of stainless steel or other metals and can be expensive to install, but they work well to keep pigeons from nesting.

Installing spikes yourself is relatively straightforward and can help cut costs using OFFO Bird Spikes, stainless steel spikes with a sturdy base. They come in several different lengths and are relatively inexpensive.

Use Slopes To Keep Pigeons Away

Incorporating slopes is another standard method to keep pigeons from nesting in a specific area. Since pigeons need a relatively flat surface to build their nest, 45-degree or more slopes are difficult for building nests and work well as a deterrent.

In other areas, like in the rafters of barns, spikes can be applied but excluding pigeons from the inside of the barn is a viable option. Filling in any holes and keeping doors shut when not in use can go a long way in keeping unwanted guests out.

Another way to make your house a bad nesting environment is to add scents that pigeons hate around your space. For a full list of scents that you can use to deter pigeons head on over to our article! Scents range anywhere from chili pepper to cinnamon – a must-read if you ask us!

Keep Pigeons Away With Visual Deterrents

Visual deterrents are another common way to keep birds of all species away and will do a great job of keeping pigeons away. Visual deterrents come in many forms, giving you plenty of options depending on your needs.

Some deterrents mimic predatory birds, the number one predator of pigeons. Bird of prey decoys is more effective if they incorporate movement, such as this Bird-X Fake Owl with moving wings.

That extra movement makes the decoy seem more lifelike and helps convince the pigeons it is real.

You Can Also Use Windchimes To Keep pigeons Away

Other deterrents, like windchimes, can be used, including those that make a noise. Not only can they help keep bird problems at bay, but windchimes can add a great ambiance and decorations to your home, serving multiple purposes.

The Illinois DPH does note that since pigeons have adapted so well to an urban lifestyle among people, they are less receptive to scare techniques than most birds.

This does not mean they will not work, but you’ll need to be diligent in changing tactics when the birds get used to one.

Likewise, we have an entire article dedicated to talking about sounds that scare pigeons! From windchimes to pigeon calls, to loud noises – head on over to our article to learn more.

Thank You For Reading!

Hopefully, this article answered all your questions about how long pigeons nest and some other tips to help you control nearby populations. Now, you should be able to prevent your home from turning into a pigeon-infested area.

To recap some of the information covered about their nesting habits, pigeons will:

  • Choose a mate and stick with them for life.
  • Use the same nest year-round and do not build new nests unless something happens to the old one.
  • Have, on average, 12 babies per year in 6 separate clutches, although there are plenty of outliers.
  • Choose a safe, flat, high spot to build their nest and raise their young.
  • Avoid areas with perceived threats, such as actual or decoy predators.

Thank you for reading, and happy pigeon-repelling!

References

Haag-Wackernagel, D., & Geigenfeind, I. (2008). Protecting buildings against Feral Pigeons. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 54(4), 715–721.

Mohamed, R.A., M. Shukry, T.M. Mousa-Balabel, and A.A. Elbassiouny. 2016. Assessment of plasma prolactin and nest defense behaviour during breeding cycle of pigeon (Columba livia domestica). Journal of Environmental & Agricultural Sciences. 7:19-22.

ONIKI, Y., & WILLIS, E. O. (2001). Nesting behavior of the picazuro pigeon, Columba Picazuro (Columbidae, Aves). Revista Brasileira De Biologia, 60(4), 663–666.

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