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Rock dove picture from www.rspb.org.uk

Most of us already know that feral pigeons are descendants of the rock dove. Although the rock dove and feral pigeons are essentially the same species (both bear the scientific name Columba livia), the name feral pigeon is given to those pigeons that inhabit towns and cities and come in a variety of colours (see Pigeon poster), while the rock dove in its pure state lives mainly on rocky mountainous slopes and coastal cliffs and are uniform in colour (see picture).

On the Natural History Museum’s website they state that there are 3 types of pigeons:

  1. rock pigeons – which are natural
  2. domestic pigeons – which are artificial
  3. and feral pigeons – which are outlaws

While I don’t really agree with calling feral pigeons ‘outlaws’ their website has some interesting information on it: Columba livia (rock pigeon)

Domestic pigeons are generally quite tame due to being handled often by people. Feral pigeons in cities and towns can also be quite tame when their fear of humans disappears and they become bolder in nature in their search for food. Piazza San Marco in Venice is a very famous example, although they have now banned the feeding of pigeons there (since May 2008). If you search on YouTube for ‘pigeons Venice’ loads of videos come up. Here’s one:

The pigeons at Trafalgar Square in London are also famous; however, they have also banned the feeding of pigeons there (since 2000).  For more info go to: http://www.savethepigeons.org/index.html

Now to get to my main subject: how to tame a pigeon.

(“At last!” you say! :) )

Taming feral pigeons, in my opinion, is fairly easy. All you need is time, patience and enough food. Simply feed the pigeons at regular times in the week, keeping still and remaining non-threatening, and eventually the pigeons will gain confidence and realise that you’re not going to harm them. Soon you’ll have pigeons flocking around your feet to feed and you will be able to enjoy their company in the garden/patio/balcony without them flying off every time you turn your head or take a step.

Obviously some pigeons will take longer to trust you than others since all animals are individuals and have their own unique nature and experiences with people, but as long as you don’t harm them they should eventually trust you. The day one flies onto your hand to take seed from it will be a joyous day for you.

Some people will hand-rear a squab from birth to tame them (either they took one from a domestic breeding pair or they found an orphaned feral pigeon squab). Hand-rearing an animal is usually a sure-fire way to make them tame as long as they are treated with love and affection and hand-reared in the correct way (this only applies to domesticated animals or animals predisposed to be tame. Hand-rearing wild animals doesn’t always mean they will be tame). If this is something you want to do then please seek expert advice before hand-rearing a baby pigeon. Too many things could go wrong (e.g. you can easily get food down the wrong hole while hand feeding them if you haven’t been shown how to feed them the correct way).

Once you have a tame pigeon on your hands you might find yourself addicted for life! So those who want such a ‘novelty’ pet – beware! The average lifespan for a pigeon in captivity is said to be 8-15 years (however many people have reported having pigeons living into their early 20′s), and will require the same love and care that any other animal needs.