Why do we never see baby pigeons? Where did they go?
Visit any big city anywhere in the world, its squares will undoubtedly be filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of head-bobbing pigeons. But despite their numbers, you never see their chicks. How come?
Well, the pigeons you come across eating leftover pizza and ice cream in the streets are mostly feral pigeons (Columba livia domestica). This subspecies was originally bred from the wild rock dove, the world’s oldest domesticated bird, a species that nests and breeds on sea cliffs and rocky mountain crevasses around Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Although feral pigeons today mostly frequent busy metropolises instead of rocky coastlines, they still tend to nest in the high-up edges and cavities of buildings, which is one of the reasons for such infrequent sightings.
“Only if you can see into a nest would you be likely to see baby pigeons,” Debra Kriensky, a conservation biologist with NYC Audubon Society, explained to IFLScience. “By the time they leave the nest, they are already quite large and resemble adult birds more than they do chicks.”
“Pigeons are born naked and need to grow feathers before they can leave the nest,” Martin Fowlie of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) added. “They remain in their nests until they are able to fly like other nest building species.”
Also, pigeon babies grow up faster than other birds, at least as far as their appearance is concerned.
That said, pigeon babies do get a little spoiled. Whereas most songbirds spend two to three weeks in the nest, pigeons hang out for at least three weeks and up to six weeks in the comfort of the mom’s quarters, Marc Devokaitis, public information specialist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York, told Live Science.
By that time, the juvenile pigeons look more like adults than other birds when they leave the nest, he added.
And even if fledging pigeons hop out of their nests now and then, they’d still be out of view for passersby on the ground, whereas other birds with less lofty nests might be seen on the ground or sitting on a bush shortly after they fledge.
If you keep an eye out though, you might be able to spot some of those adolescents: Look for feathers that aren’t completely molted, dark eyes (adults have reddish-orangish eyes) and tapered primary feathers (the longest feathers you see on the bird’s wing). Good luck!