The pigeon, along with the dove, is part of the bird family known as Columbidae, which consists of roughly 300 species. The dove is usually the smaller of the two birds we are talking about, and the pigeon is the larger one. A young pigeon and dove is called a squab. While a human being has 10,000 taste buds, pigeons have only forty. However, they manage to get enough food to keep them nourished, even if it isn’t too tasty. They have stout bodies and short necks, combined with a slender bill, the upper part of which is covered with something fleshy called a cere.
A New Zealand pigeon, kererū, eating a cherry. © Dave O’Connor.
A pigeon’s diet
A pigeon, being a scavenger, will devour almost anything. However, it will not tackle anything hard, like an apple, which has not been cut into pieces. They do like leftovers, so if you are one who likes to feed the pigeons, give them your leftovers. They will love them and will keep coming back for more.
These birds also eat seeds and some insects
They are at home in urban areas, as one can readily see them in parks, and on the streets. Doves like to eat fruit and plants, as well as seeds, while the pigeon can get along nicely with grains. There are many types of doves, including the turtle dove, the mourning dove, the ringed turtle dove and the spotted turtle dove.
A New Zealand pigeon, kererū, feeding on the small white fruit of a cabbage tree. © Philip Poole.
How about water?
They get their water from puddles found on the roads, or sometimes from bird baths. And to watch a pigeon drink is quite a sight, as they drink with their heads right down to the ground. They make a cooing sound, much like the dove.
A pigeon’s nest
The nests of pigeons and doves are usually made from debris and sticks, and don’t appear to be too strong. There are pigeon fanciers who keep them in coops, letting them out for the odd flight around the neighborhood. The pigeon we normally talk about is called the feral pigeon, found in most cities.
The homing pigeon
The homing pigeon is a bird that has been trained to leave home for a trip, but always comes home to roost. Many people enjoy keeping homing pigeons as a hobby, however, they can be dirty and smelly and not everyone would like to have them as pets. They can be real pests, as anyone who has had a pigeon take charge of a balcony or some other place knows. They really shouldn’t be encouraged and the best way to enjoy a pigeon is from a distance.
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