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I spent a week with my family at my grandmother’s home in Orosháza (Hungary) and the weather was unexpectedly hot, ranging from 32°C to 38°C! I’m not used to such heat and generally don’t like it but this time it was a pleasant experience. So I made the most of it and spent a lot of time sitting under the shade of the walnut trees in the garden watching the birds.

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the ride!

At times the heat was stifling (which after a while would drive me to retire to the cool interior of the house), other times there was a refreshing breeze. I felt sorry for the male blackbird who lived in the garden. He looked very hot! He was quite tame – not even bothered by the presence of the neighbour’s dogs (he must have sussed out that they weren’t interested in him) – and would walk near me on his daily forage. Poor bird. He had his beak open most times but luckily he had a tray of water to bathe in to cool down.

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Blackbird bathing

The one vivid memory I have of my grandmother’s home in Hungary is the sound of cooing. As a child I didn’t know what type of bird was cooing (despite knowing what a feral pigeon is). It may be surprising for you to learn that I had never seen a woodpigeon nor a collared dove until I went to the UK. While there are woodpigeons and collared doves in Finland (where I lived before moving to England) I had never noticed them. When I started working at a wildlife rescue centre in the UK I saw lots of pigeon and dove species and soon became acqainted with all the different cooings. So when I went back to Hungary and heard the cooing in the garden I immediately knew what bird species was making the sound: collared doves!! And this time I noticed them. They are everywhere! And they coo continuously – talking to each other.

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Collared dove

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the garden views

As I sat in the garden reading a book (during this recent visit) I started to notice how often the collared doves visited the garden to drink. There is a big tub of collected rainwater that they drink from. All sorts visit: sparrows, greenfinches, woodpeckers, blackbirds and even the neighbour’s dogs!

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Collared dove at the local "watering hole"

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Taking a long sip in the heat

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Mr. Pigeon wants a drink too

I did see a few woodpigeons (at the local water park) and a few flocks of feral pigeons in the towns, however, collared doves seem to dominate the area where my grandma lives.

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Collared dove relaxing in the shade

I had a lovely time with my family and with the birds there but I missed my Georgie and Elmo a lot! Mr. Pigeon was a comfort though. :)

The neighbour’s very friendly dogs, Pöti and Daisy:

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Pöti

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Daisy


Just wanted to update you on the progress of the pigeons and doves at my work that I have previously mentioned.

  • Widget and his collared dove friends have been released. Hooray! We wish them all the luck in the world that they stay safe!
  • Dotty is almost ready for release (it’ll happen in the next week or so). She’s grown well and is no longer interested in humans and is currently chilling out with other collared doves in an aviary.
  • We have found a home for the 6 fantail pigeons. Yay! We are satisfied that they can fly well and they have good predator awareness (I observed their behaviour to determine this). The lady who is taking them will keep them enclosed for a few weeks while they get used to the area and see the existing flock she feeds and cares for, and then they will be free flying around her home.
  • The young stock dove is in an aviary with collared doves (because we don’t have any other stock doves at the moment), and will also be released later this month when we’re happy that he’s old enough (we’ll wait a bit for the iridescence to appear on his neck). He has reverted back to his wild state and doesn’t want anything to do with us humans, which is great because we can release him without having to worry that he’s tame! Here’s a photo of him:
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Stock dove with a collared dove (right). 27th October


As promised, here are a few photos of little Widget who has grown up and is almost ready for release:

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Handsome boy! :)

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Widget (second from left) with other collared doves

This is Dotty (mentioned in yesterdays post), another tiny collared dove, with her wood pigeon friend:

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Dotty (front) and friend

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The baby woody is bigger than older Dotty

She’s grown nicely but is still a tiny tot. This was Dotty on her arrival at my work on the 20th Sept:

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Ps. I was going to post a short video of Elmo welcoming us home, but the upload was too slow and messed things up so I’ll try again another time.


Watched Georgie through the window before entering our home and she was on her perch having a quiet preening session. As soon as she heard us at the door she lept off the perch and was waiting for us to let her out. Eager! :)

Elmo was on the window sill. Sometimes he hears us come home, in which case he’ll be cooing and dancing on the bed or on the floor with anticipation. Today he didn’t but as soon as he saw me peering in he lept from the window sill onto the bed and started his greeting dance. We really should capture it on video one of these days.

Elmo likes to preen my husband and here he is in his loving mood:

Sometimes, though, Elmo preens a bit too much and little red marks appear on Richard’s arm (where he’s pulled a little bit of skin off). Ouch.

In other news, little Widget has grown up into a slightly scruffy looking collared dove and is in an aviary with other collared doves, waiting for a break in the weather to be released. Hooray! :) (Photos to come if I manage to remember.) We had another little 1 day old baby collared dove in, which I have named Dotty since she’s as small as a dot.


This blog is called “Pigeons as Pets”. I just want to clarify what we mean by this.

We are not advising or advocating taking pigeons from the wild and keeping them as pets in an aviary or cage. Not at all! Healthy, flight-abled pigeons in the wild should be left to live their life naturally.

If, however, you find a baby pigeon that needs hand-rearing then of course this needs to be done (preferably by the experts) – with the aim that it can be released as a wild pigeon when it is ready. This is not always possible, as many of you know. Sometimes the baby is injured and cannot be released because of it; sometimes the baby becomes tame and bonded to humans and therefore unreleasable (especially if it has no predator avoidance instincts). In these cases the baby pigeon would need to be housed in a safe and suitable environment for the rest of its life. This also applies to adult pigeons that are disabled (e.g. blind or cannot fly).

  • Safe environment = safe from predators such as cats, dogs and sparrowhawks. Safe from the elements (e.g. severe weather).
  • Suitable environment = an area where the pigeon can fly (if it physically can), walk about, have suitable food and access to drinking and bathing water. Also, preferably, an area where it can have a mate. Pigeons are gregarious and require company.

Disabled adult pigeons may learn to tolerate your presence or they may become tame over time. Each pigeon is individual in its behaviour and character. The key is to understand what it needs and to not force anything.

  • Feral pigeons are one of the most common pigeons you’ll see and are perfectly capable of living in the wild in a variety of environments around the world. They can become very tame around humans if fed regularily.
  • Fancy pigeons are human bred pigeons and many would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. Some have physical features that make them dependent on humans.
  • Racing pigeons are also human bred but if they become lost and hungry they usually find food in people’s gardens and may even join a feral pigeon flock instead of flying back home.
  • Wood pigeons are a completely wild species and adult woodies generally do not cope well in captivity (there are always exceptions). Hand-reared wood pigeons may remain tame and friendly.
  • Collared doves are also a completely wild species and are in many ways similar to woodies in their relationship with humans.

Since pigeons are largely monogamous, if a flight-abled pigeon bonds with a non-flighted one then it will stay with its mate despite its disability. Some people would be tempted to release the flight-abled pigeon, however, you would then be seperating two bonded pigeons, which I consider to be an unkind act. Most feral pigeons are happy as long as they have a mate, food, water, shelter, room to fly and a place to nest – whether this is in the wild or in captivity. This does not mean that you can justify taking pigeons from the wild – I stand by my belief that healthy, flighted pigeons should live in the wild in their natural state. What I am trying to say is that if you have nursed a flight-abled pigeon back to health but it has bonded with a disabled pigeon then you can keep the two together in a safe and suitable environment.

Then there is the question as to whether you should release a flighted tame pigeon. I think the answer to this is whether the tame pigeon knows enough about predators and has predator avoidance instincts. If it does not then it should not be released since it would be easy pickings. Some tame hand-reared pigeons have no predator awareness – some don’t even know what a predator is.

So what do we mean by “Pigeons as Pets”? We mean tame, imprinted or disabled pigeons that would not otherwise survive in the wild.


A special little birdie arrived at my work in the beginning of September: A tiny newly hatched baby collared dove that we weren’t sure would survive the first night – he was so small!

We popped him into a nest in an incubator for warmth and he received regular but small amounts of food throughout the first few days  – and much to our pleasure he survived and grew slowly but surely.

We call this special little guy Widget. :)

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Widget - only about 5 days old

After being a week with us Widget received a friend – a bigger and older collared dove who immediately fell in love with him. The two keep each other company and love to be snuggled up together in their nest.

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Widget (left) and his new brother/sister

At the moment both Widget and his new brother or sister are very friendly and have an adorable coo to attract our attention for food. With time both shall grow into healthy independant collared doves and will be released with other doves when ready.