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There are a few words used by pigeon lovers on the net that makes us smile and tut at the same time when we see it posted: “Oops” babies! :)

These words announce the discovery of baby pigeons that have slipped our birth-control vigilance. We smile because we are delighted to see little babies but tut because we know we should have checked more carefully but somehow we slacked and missed those eggs. Sometimes, pigeons will go to great lengths to hide their eggs from us so the babies remain hidden for a long time (Dora hid under a hutch: Dora’s first babies).

Now why on Earth would I be writing about “oops” babies?! … Have you guessed yet? :)

Dora’s aviary was having a major clean. A hutch was lifted and underneath we discovered these little critters:

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Baby field mice

Ok, so they’re not pigeons but they are sooo adorable! 8 little field mice and 1 big fat mamma mouse! Next to the nest is a big pile of peanuts. After our shock and a quick photo, we placed the hutch back to leave the family in peace. We’ll check on them later when they are old enough to fend from themselves: then the fun begins! Catching them all up and releasing them. I’m not sure if the mother mouse can get out of the aviary since the wire is quite small, however, mice are quite capable of squeezing through small spaces so she may be coming and going easily. Whatever the case, she’s obviously finding life with the pigeons a breeze: plenty of food and bedding around and no predators!

In other news, Teresa (a disabled pigeon) is still not using her legs properly and we have been unsuccessful in finding a cause (read: News about pigeons in Dora’s aviary). I put her back in Dora’s aviary to see how she would cope, and the male pigeons swamped her – cooing and dancing on and around her, making it impossible for her to escape from their unwanted attentions. They stood on her wings and basically penned her down. I quickly removed her and knew that she would not be able to live in the aviary in her condition. So I set up a smaller pen outside and gave her two other white pigeons for company and they are all getting along fine. No fights or unwanted behaviour.

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Teresa (left) and a friend

The other two white pigeons are youngsters that were orphaned and ill, but are now fine and growing up beautifully.

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Teresa (left) and co in their outside pen

Birdie pigeon is looking much better now that her feathers have grown back:

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Birdie girl

And Tux and Burko have decided that they want to nest in the hanging basket instead of the hutch I provided:

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Burko (left) and Tux (right)

Dora and her mate, Pidge, are doing very well. Dora’s sitting on a fake egg and being very demanding. As soon as she sees me (from across the field) she’ll cling to the aviary wire to let me know that she’s expecting me to come over with peanuts. Woe betide me if I come empty-handed!!

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Dora and Pidge

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Dora's aviary


At a Christmas party with my husband. It’s a sit-down dinner with cheesy disco music blaring in the background. Lots of drinks. Maybe some dancing later.

The subject: pigeons. More specifically: Our pet pigeons!

Five minutes into the conversation I realise how crazy we both sound. Richard is showing the people at the table Elmo fast asleep at home as seen from the webcam via Richard’s phone. … We’re proud as new parents, showing off our “babies”.

Somehow I doubt we’ve come across as sane, reasonable people. “Hippie” and “crazy” come to mind.

Oh well. Return home late to a very happy pigeon dancing around our feet and greeting us with enthusiasm. We were only gone for about 4 hours but Elmo’s acting like he hasn’t seen us all day.

We didn’t disturb Georgie. She was fast asleep in her cage.

* * * * * * *

On another subject, here’s Georgie hard at work:

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And now time to rest:

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Monday mornings are always busy for me at work – coming in after a 2 day break to find the Intensive Care Unit busting at the seams with casualties from the weekend. It takes us a few hours to reassess and sort out the new arrivals and older patients – but first I always have the need to go see Dora, Pidge and the other resident pigeons. I need to know that they are ok.

So I go to say good morning and to also check for any eggs (which, if found, I’ll replace with fake ones) and upon seeing Dora and Pidge I burst out laughing.

This is what I see:

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:D

It seems that Dora and her mate, Pidge, have been a bit too eager and ambitious in their nest building! :)

What darlings! Pigeons always seem to do something new to make me laugh and smile – this little skyscraper nest being such a gem. I can just see Pidge’s determination and dedication as he picks up another piece of straw and takes it to the ever growing pile. Dora must be thinking, “Are the eggs going to stay on top of this?”

I must admit I’d be very worried for their babies if I did let them raise a pair. I’d be too afraid that they’d fall off the nest – seeing as it is so high and a bit unstable. Surely Dora and Pidge must realise that the eggs and babies would be the safest in the basket – not balanced on top?!

Oh well, I just have to let them pretend that they know what they’re doing. :)

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What I am about to write may ruffle a few feathers in the bird/pigeon world, however, I feel I must address the issue. I apologise if anyone is offended – this is not a personal attack on anyone, just a subject I have been meaning to write about for a while now. I will try to be as objective as I can, however, emotion will also govern my opinions.

Is it right to hand-rear a pigeon on its own and therefore potentially cause them to become imprinted on humans?

Some people might not know what imprinting means, or know the difference between imprinting and taming. Imprinting is very different to taming.

  • Taming is the process in which an animal is regularly exposed to humans and thereby becoming used to their presence and trusting them. The animal keeps their identity but simply chooses to become friendly with humans. Not all animals can become tame. Some are just too wild.
  • Imprinting means that an animal identifies itself as the same species as to that which reared him, e.g. a human being. Not all animals will become imprinted. It mainly occurs in bird species, especially ducks and other precocial birds (i.e. birds that are born with feathers, able to walk and to feed themselves shortly after hatching).

Although pigeons are not precocial, rather altricial (i.e. born helpless and greatly dependant on their parents), they can become imprinted on humans if reared on their own without any other pigeons to interact with. An imprinted pigeon will identify itself as being human and will not socialise properly with other pigeons and cannot be released into the wild (since it would not survive out in the wild if left to its own devices).

Not all lone hand-reared pigeons become imprinted – some just become tame. I don’t know why some do and some don’t. I guess it’s just down to their individual experience and personality.

An imprinted pigeon would need to live with humans its whole life since it will identify a human as its mate (since pigeons pair for life this is a great commitment). However, how much of their needs can we satisfy as humans? We cannot lay eggs and incubate them. Breeding is very strong in pigeons and they’ll want to mate with you and make a nest.

Over time an imprinted pigeon may learn to be a pigeon – if kept in the company of other pigeons and has limited human contact (I haven’t tried this so I cannot say for certain) – however, the welfare of the imprinted pigeon would need to be assessed constantly – is the pigeon happy living with other pigeons? Is it forming a friendship with them? Is it on its own looking depressed?

I totally understand how someone might decide to raise a baby bird if they find one orphaned – since they can be very cute and endearing. Baby pigeons are particularly sweet because they squeak and waggle their wings at you at a young age. Who couldn’t resist raising one? However, the fact is that unless you are prepared to give the pigeon a home for the rest of its life (and you can expect an average of 15 years in captivity) it is best if a pigeon-friendly animal rescue centre rears the pigeon. That way the pigeon has the best chance of knowing it is a pigeon and being released when older.

Ok, so say you are prepared to give the imprinted pigeon a home for the rest of its life. Does it still make it right to imprint an animal? You’re basically warping their self-image and making them think they are something they aren’t. I guess it all comes down to how you view animals (non-human animals that is) and what role you believe they play in human society.

I know this all might sound very hypocritical of me since I have two imprinted pigeons living with me – however, I didn’t raise them – only acquired them after the ‘damage’ had been done. This is not to say that imprinted pigeons are totally damaged and have no quality of life because they think they’re people. Not at all. Both Elmo and Georgie are healthy, happy beings and other imprinted pigeons I’ve seen have been too. People just need to be aware of the problems they may have on their hands if they imprint an animal and then try to release it into the wild, thinking that it can survive and will be happy. That is animal abandonment and in some countries a prosecutable offense.

I hope what I’ve written is food for thought. Many of us love animals and want to do the right thing. If you have an imprinted pigeon on your hands and need to give it up for some reason then please take the time to find him or her a good home to live in.

Please note that the above can also be applied to tame pigeons – as was the case with Dora – however, more on this later.

Note: Elmo is definately imprinted. Georgie is imprinted but I think she’d like another pigeon if they would give her a chance. Both Dora and Minnie are tame not imprinted.


I think baby pigeons are so beautiful! And they are such darling little creatures that would melt anyones heart with their affections. :)


How many of us used to wonder (or still do) where baby pigeons come from? I’ve heard from many people how they never see baby pigeons – how there are just loads of adults about. In a way this is true. You see, the reason why you generally don’t see baby pigeons is that pigeons tend to nest in secluded spots (you’re more likely to hear them squeaking to be fed) and when baby pigeons leave the nest they look almost identical to adult pigeons. To the untrained eye a flock of pigeons all look alike and seem to all be adults, however, those in the know can identify those pigeons that are juveniles and have just fledged. The trick is looking at the cere – the fleshy bit on the top of the beak. If it is soft and the same colour as the beak (or greyish) then it is a juvenile pigeon, if it is hard and white in colour then it is an adult.

Baby pigeons, or squabs, grow extremely quickly and can almost double in size overnight. At 3 weeks of age they attain near-adult weight and leave the nest at under 2 months of age. For photos of this rapid growth go to the following websites:

Pigeon Recovery, a London based pigeon sanctuary, have produced a guide about pigeons that have good information on baby pigeons: Pigeon Pages: How to be a friend to the feral pigeon (scroll down to the bottom of the webpage for the guide).

If you do find a baby pigeon (that small, prehistoric looking creature) on the ground then it most definitely needs to be taken to a pigeon friendly rescue centre for care and hand-rearing. Once on the ground and away from the nest it won’t be able to get back to the nest and the parents won’t be able to retrieve it. They may try to feed it on the ground but the baby will be vulnerable and will most likely die from exposure or predator attack. (See Pigeon Rescue: what to do with injured, ill and orphaned pigeons).

Please never try to feed a baby pigeon any kind of milk, meat or worms – it is not good for them. For the first 2-3 days of their life baby pigeons are fed ‘crop milk’ from their parents. As they get older the parents feed them regurgitated seed mixed with the crop milk, then later simply regurgitated seed (after day 7-9). Crop milk can be replicated by mixing a bird rearing powder with water (such as Kaytee Exact or Tropican baby bird rearing formula). See the following websites for more about feeding baby pigeons: Feeding the Pigeon

Please also don’t try to put water down a baby pigeon’s beak – it can easily go down the wrong way and drown them.

Here’s some photos of the prehistoric looking creatures:

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Here’s a webcam of a pigeon nest with parents and babies: http://www.beleefdelente.nl/torenvalk

(Sorry for the short post – we have guests staying with us so I’m a bit busy.)


Some brilliant videos of woodpigeons – parents and their young:


Georgie – For some reason George doesn’t seem to understand that the right side of the sofa is Elmo’s territory (see A complicated relationship). For the past week or so she has been constantly walking over to that side of the sofa, which annoys Elmo to no end. He chases her away and then a bit later she’ll try again. Sometimes it is to get to the peanuts (which I sometimes need to put in the middle of the sofa so that she can eat them in peace), but most of the time I think Georgie’s got some secret agenda.

Elmo – His blood blister is no longer soft but has dried up a bit. It doesn’t seem to bother him or cause him any pain. We don’t think we need to take Elmo to the vet because the blister seems to be going away, albeit slowly.

Dora – Today Dora’s babies (yes, I know, more babies! I try to keep on top of the situation but I just can’t keep up with Dora and her egg laying. She’s so sneaky!) came out from under the hutch when I fed the pigeons at work and were squeaking at her and the other pigeons. They are so adorable. I just love pigeon squabs! I watched Dora feed them and then they went back under the hutch to have a nap. I’ll try to get photos and a video of them next time.

Minnie – I was told today that Minnie is trying to start a family but thankfully her new carer has sneakily switched Minnie’s eggs with fake ones. One type of pigeon contraception at work! Since Minnie is so small I do wonder what her babies would look like. Would they be like her or more like Minnie’s mate who is of normal size? Maybe one day she’ll have a few oops babies and we’ll see.


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27th February 2010

A while back a mummy pigeon and her two babies were brought into my workplace because the pigeon pair had nested on the ground in a hospital courtyard where it was due to have renovations done. The mummy pigeon has a broken wing and cannot even hop off the ground, which is why they had nested on the ground. The hospital staff had been kind enough to feed her and shelter her from any harm, however, they needed to relocate them because of the renovations. They had tried to catch the whole family but the daddy pigeon flew away and they never caught him.

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10th March 2010

Actually, the hospital staff thought the mummy pigeon was the daddy! I didn’t ask them why they thought this (silly me!) and so for a few weeks we called the mummy pigeon a daddy until we later found out that she was female. We found this out simply by the behaviour of other pigeons in an adjacent aviary. All the male pigeons took one look at the big, healthy and pretty mummy pigeon and begun their courtship campaign! If the wire hadn’t been between them she would have been worn out by their advances.

The babies grew and grew under mummy’s loving care at the rescue centre and they are due to be released once they are big and strong.

Here’s a video of mummy feeding one of her babies:

The mummy pigeon had to be rehomed because of her broken wing. I knew of someone who was looking for female pigeons to pair up with her male pigeons and so on the 27th March we took mummy pigeon (and another female pigeon that needed rehoming) to her aviary and got her settled into her new home (see Minnie’s new home).

This Saturday we will be visiting the aviary and we’ll be taking plenty of photos and will have an update for you on the mummy pigeon (as well as Minnie).

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27th March 2010 - Taking her to her new home!