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You’ll often see folk in parks and city squares throwing the congregated pigeons a crust of their lunchtime sandwich or sausage roll snack.
But what does the regular diet of our feathered friends/fiends (dependent on your viewpoint) really consist of? What do pigeons actually eat?
Pigeons are ground-feeding birds and prefer to take their food from the floor. That won’t prevent a hungry pigeon pinching from your garden bird feeder though.
Feral pigeons eat a variety of foods including grains, seeds, cereal crops, plant seeds and peas. They will also feast on berries, fruits and vegetables.
Pigeons are generally herbivores but they will eat insects, snails and worms when they need to.
Urban pigeons will happily munch on breadcrumbs, popcorn, biscuits, chips, rice, pasta, fish and pet food – pretty much anything that humans leave behind.
The average pigeon will eat a tenth of its body weight every day. By comparison, us humans will roughly eat the equivalent of our own body weight every 31 days.
The pesky birds which throng our towns and cities weigh around 350 grams – the equivalent of a tin of soup. That means your average feral pigeon can get by on the equivalent of a slice of bread each day, though that alone would not sustain it for long nutritionally.
We see the signs often enough – “please do not feed the pigeons” – but aside from not encouraging the “rats with wings” to overpopulate urban areas are there other reasons for taking care what we scatter for them?
Certainly pigeons require a lot more water than most birds. That is particularly the case during the breeding season (spring through to summer). For that reason, dehydrating foods are bad for pigeons. Pigeons actually have a fondness for salt too which hardly helps.
Human foods, particularly meat, can be dangerous to pigeons. Such an intake can introduce bacteria that pigeons simply aren’t capable of fighting off.
Of course, the other reason for not hand-feeding pigeons in the park or precinct is that they can become dependent on humans for food and less likely, or indeed able in time, to seek sustenance for themselves.
Pigeons do get a bad press. They are intelligent birds and take a closer look and you will see that their plumage of blue, greens and bronzes is really quite beautiful.
Pigeons are also one of the few creatures to have managed to live in our urban environments without hiding in the bushes, alleys and sewers like the fox and the rat.
Yet pigeons are considered to be pests. They do carry disease – particularly transmitted by their droppings. And they can cause damage to buildings and make a bit of a mess when pooping on people and pavements below.
If you do have a pigeon problem, be it in your home environment, garden, office building or commercial premises, it is worth understanding what the urban pigeon prefers to pick on in order to send them packing. After all, depriving pigeons of their favoured food stuff is one way to ensure they must go elsewhere to survive.
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