What Do Pigeons Eat? Pigeon Food & Feeding Tips

Pigeon being offered food from the palm

Pigeons are such a common sight that it’s easy to overlook them, but when it comes to what they eat, there’s actually a lot to unpack. One of the keys to their success is their ability to find food almost anywhere.

But what exactly should you feed these birds to keep them thriving? If you’ve ever thought about feeding pigeons or are just curious about what fills their bellies, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what pigeons love to eat and share some tips on feeding them. Whether you want to draw them to your yard or simply give them a treat without causing harm, we’ve got you covered.

What Do Pigeons Eat?

Pigeon feeding on a piece of bread

Pigeons are opportunistic feeders, adapting their diet based on what is available in their environment. While they mainly feed on grains and seeds, they’re known to eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and occasionally insects and invertebrates.

Here’s a list of the common foods that pigeons typically enjoy eating:

  • Grains and Seeds: Pigeons love to eat grains and seeds, which form the bulk of their diet. This includes corn, oats, wheat, barley, and millet, along with seeds from flowers and weeds.
  • Fruits and Berries: Pigeons enjoy a sweet treat from time to time. These birds like to eat fruits like apples, pears, bananas, grapes, and berries they find in gardens or in the wild.
  • Vegetables: Soft-leaf vegetables are particularly appealing to pigeons. They often eat lettuce, spinach, kale, and other greens, along with cauliflower, broccoli, dandelion greens, and sprouts, for their nutrient-rich properties.
  • Legumes: When looking to boost their protein, pigeons turn to legumes. They are particularly partial to peas and occasionally snack on different types of beans found in their habitats.
  • Nuts: Pigeons also enjoy a variety of nuts, including beechnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, which provide them with essential fats and proteins.
  • Insects and Invertebrates: Although they prefer plant-based foods, pigeons will sometimes eat small insects and invertebrates. This includes ants, spiders, worms, and snails, especially when they need more protein in their diet.

As shown above, pigeons are like nature’s food enthusiasts, always ready to try new things.

Although they’re mainly herbivorous, they can adapt their diet if needed. Their flexible eating habits help them thrive in any environment they find themselves in.

What Do Pigeons Eat in the City?

City pigeons have become experts at making the most of what people leave behind. They feast on bits of hamburgers, fries, and other fast-food leftovers that end up on the streets.

Bread, although not the healthiest option, is also a common food source due to its availability from parkgoers who feed birds as a pastime.

Moreover, pigeons in urban areas have developed a taste for sweet treats, including bits of pastries, sugary drinks spilled on the ground, and even dropped ice cream.

While these items are far from their natural diet, they provide an easy source of calories.

From pizza crusts to rice from a takeout box, if it’s edible and on the ground, pigeons will likely give it a try. This diet of human leftovers and scraps shows just how well these birds can adapt to city life.

What Are Pigeons’ Favorite Food?

Pigeons feeding on corn seeds

There are many different types of pigeons, each with its own preferences based on their habitat, making it hard to pinpoint a single favorite food. However, these birds do show preferences for certain foods.

Among their favorites are grains and seeds, which are staples of their diet. They’re particularly fond of corn, wheat, and millet, which are not only delicious to them but also packed with the essential nutrients they need.

Hemp seeds are another favorite, known to attract pigeons with their rich nutritional value.

Besides grains and seeds, pigeons have a soft spot for nuts, with peanuts being a top choice. The high-fat content in nuts is a great energy source for pigeons, making them a sought-after treat.

Pigeon Food and Basic Feeding Tips

Feeding pigeons might seem straightforward, but there’s more to it than just tossing out some bread crumbs. Here are some tips to guide you in feeding pigeons, whether they’re your pets or local wildlife.

Choose the Right Food

Pigeons benefit from a diet rich in grains and seeds, such as corn, wheat, barley, and millet. These should be unprocessed and clean to prevent disease.

For pet pigeons, specially formulated pellets can be a convenient feeding option as they’re readily available at pet stores and designed to meet their nutritional needs.

I have some pigeons myself, and I like to make their meals more interesting by adding bits of fruits and vegetables.

Things like leafy greens, peas, a few grapes, and grated carrots have become a big hit with them. It’s amazing to see how quickly they gobble them up!

Every week, I also give them boiled eggs, chopped up with the shells still on. It might sound odd, but the shell is packed with calcium, which is great for their health.

Pro Tip: Introducing new foods to pigeons can be a bit of a challenge if they’ve never had them before. Pigeons can be cautious with unfamiliar foods, so patience is key.

Start by mixing small amounts of the new food with their usual grains or seeds. This way, they’ll gradually get used to the taste and texture.

Provide Fresh Water

Pigeons need fresh, clean water available at all times, not just to drink but also to help digest their food properly. Typically, they should have access to around 50 ml of water daily.

Place a water bowl in a shaded area to keep the water cool and change it daily to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria. If it’s cold out, check the water to make sure it hasn’t frozen over.

Avoid Overfeeding

Overfeeding pigeons can lead to health issues for the birds and attract unwanted pests like rats and mice. Measure the food to ensure you’re providing an appropriate amount for the number of pigeons you’re feeding. 

A good rule of thumb is about 30 grams of feed per pigeon daily. Watch how much they eat and adjust from there.

Pro Tip: If you suspect your pigeon is overweight, try feeling its keel or breastbone. In healthy pigeons, the keel should be easy to feel under the breast feathers. It should be prominent but not overly sharp.

If the keel is hard to distinguish and feels buried under fat, it’s a sign your pigeon may be carrying extra weight.

Keep Feeding Areas Clean

Maintaining cleanliness in feeding areas is crucial to preventing disease transmission among pigeons and other wildlife. Regularly clean the area where you feed pigeons, removing any leftover food and droppings.

If feeding pigeons in public spaces, try to feed them in the same spot to keep things tidy.

Offer Grit

Pigeons need grit to help grind up and digest their food. If you’re feeding wild pigeons, they’ll likely find their own grit.

However, if you’re keeping pigeons as pets, you may need to provide grit alongside their regular food.

You can purchase commercial pigeon grit at most pet stores or online. Simply sprinkle a small amount of grit near their feeding area or in a separate dish so they can peck at it as needed.

What Not to Feed Pigeons

Pigeon feeding on a pizza

When it comes to feeding pigeons, it’s just as important to know what not to give them as it is to know their preferred diet. Here’s a list of foods you should avoid feeding pigeons to keep them healthy and safe:

  • Salty Foods: Foods high in salt can dehydrate pigeons and lead to serious health issues. Avoid giving them salty snacks like chips, pretzels, salted nuts, and crackers.
  • Junk Food: Generally, any junk food that is unhealthy for humans is also unhealthy for pigeons. This includes sweets, fatty snacks, fast food, and any food high in sugar or fat.
  • Avocado: Avocados contain a chemical called persin, which can cause heart damage, respiratory distress, and even death in pigeons.
  • Caffeine: Beverages or foods containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and soda, can be harmful to pigeons. Caffeine can cause cardiac malfunction in birds, among other health issues.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to pigeons and can cause serious health problems or even death.

Remember, sticking to foods that pigeons would naturally find in the wild is the best way to feed them safely. By steering clear of the foods listed above, you can help ensure that the pigeons you feed stay healthy.

How Much Do Pigeons Eat?

On average, an adult pigeon eats about 10% of its body weight in food each day.

To put that into perspective, considering the average pigeon weighs around 300 to 350 grams, they would need to consume between 30 and 35 grams of food daily.

The exact amount a pigeon eats can vary based on several factors, including the bird’s size, species, and how active it is.

Pet pigeon owners usually start by offering 2 tablespoons of food in the morning, roughly 30 grams, and then adjust as needed.

The goal is to find just the right amount that the pigeon will finish by the end of the day, ensuring they’re getting enough to eat without overfeeding.

What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?

Mother pigeon feeding its baby

Baby pigeons, also known as squabs, start their lives with a diet that’s quite different from most other birds. Right after hatching, they feed on a substance called crop milk, which is produced by both their parents.

This special feed, which isn’t actually milk, comes from the lining of the adult pigeon’s crop and is packed with fats and proteins essential for the squabs’ early development.

As squabs grow older, around the two-week mark, their diet transitions to a combination of pigeon milk and partially digested seeds and grains regurgitated by their parents.

This step is crucial as it slowly gets them used to solid food and prepares their digestive systems for a seed-based diet.

By the time they reach about a month old, squabs are fully weaned and can eat a diet consisting of grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and other plant matter, similar to adult pigeons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pigeon feeding on grains on the street

What Grains Do Pigeons Eat?

Pigeons eat a variety of grains as part of their diet. Favorites include corn, millet, wheat, and sorghum, which are often found in commercial pigeon mixes. They also eat barley, rice, peas, and oats.

What Vegetables Do Pigeons Eat?

Pigeons consume a wide variety of vegetables, including carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. These veggies are like healthy treats for pigeons, adding some nice variety to their diet.

Can Pigeons Eat Rice?

Yes, pigeons can eat rice, both cooked and uncooked, without any harm. Despite common myths, rice doesn’t swell in their stomachs or cause them any distress. However, it’s not the most nutritious option for them.

If rice is all you have, it’s okay to feed it to pigeons occasionally, but it’s better to offer them a more varied diet that includes grains and seeds, which are more suited to their nutritional needs.

Can Pigeons Eat Bread?

While it’s safe to feed pigeons bread, it’s not the best choice for their diet. Just like fast food isn’t the healthiest option for people, bread doesn’t offer pigeons the nutrients they need.

While they might enjoy it and it can fill them up, bread lacks the essential vitamins and minerals found in their natural diet.

Now that you’ve learned all about pigeon food and feeding tips, how do you intend to use this knowledge in your encounters with these lovely birds? Share your plans or any questions in the comments below!

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