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Living with pigeons is amazing. The love and affection they show us is incredible and I truly believe that every child should grow up with pigeons to care for. You can learn so much from observing them. Pigeons are intelligent, comical, beautiful, loyal, and of course loving. I couldn’t imagine how my childhood would have been if I had been deprived of learning to care for animals or watching pigeons in the city. Animals brighten my day and those short times when I didn’t have a pet, I knew I was missing something special.

Although I never ever thought as a child that I’d end up with pigeons in the house. Dogs, rats, gerbils and guinea-pigs? Yes! But pigeons? Never even crossed my mind. :)

Nowadays you’ll often find me on the sofa with a pigeon by my side. Sorry, with a pigeon on me. Whenever I’m on the sofa Georgie will leap onto my lap, demanding to nestle down. Once settled she is the most content little pigeon in the world, all relaxed, safe and comfy. Elmo will usually be in his nest, twitching his wings and cooing softly to call me over. If I look at him he’ll go into spasms of excitment (i.e. the wing twitching goes up a notch and his coos increase in volume!) as he anticipates my hand coming over to stroke him. What a darling!

Having said all of this, there are days my pigeons drive me mad with their attention-seeking and demands. Take today, for instance. Georgie insists on sitting on my lap for cuddles despite me obviously being busy with my knitting. Georgie grabs hold of the needles and shakes them about, which of course makes it difficult for me to continue. If she’s quick enough she may even pull them out of the knitting, leaving me with open stitches just itching to unravel!! Infuriating… and yet, so cute. Even when I’m screaming in my head, I give Georgie a kiss and a cuddle and tell her how cute she is. Georgie is of course oblivious to my frustration. She simply accepts my affection and settles down for a nap. If I need to get up for any reason, I have to carry her with me.

Elmo is much the same – very needy! He likes to find places to attract me over to (e.g. Georgie’s nest) by cooing loudly and he won’t be quiet unless he falls asleep. … Which he usually does since I think he’s a bit narcoleptic. So I know that any cooing episodes from Elmo will be short-lived. Not so with Georgie. She can coo and coo forever!!

There are some traits in Elmo that make me giggle. When he’s nodding off he’ll usually open one of his eyes slightly to see if I’m still sitting near him. If I give him the smallest, almost imperceptible nod he’ll immedately start twitching and nod his head back. Sweetheart!

The other is that Elmo can be quite fickle. One minute he’ll be attacking my fingers – peck, peck, die, die – then he’ll notice something he likes and run away to court it. Then he’ll give me his “I’m interested in you” coo and start to court my hand. When I hear him cooing in his “I’m interested in you” voice in another room I know he’s found a sock or shoe (or other item on the floor) that’s perked his interest and that he’ll be puffing out his chest and dancing to the inanimate object with gusto.

I love my pigeons!! :D


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


I’ve made it back home from my holiday, safe and sound. Needless to say, Georgie girl is now very happy. Richard took her out of her cage and she perched on his hand while I let her know I was there. I could see her cock her head to one side a bit and stretch out as if to determine that it was really me in front of her! Then as I held her in my hands she started cooing and snuggling into me, I couldn’t put her down; she was too excited in nesting on my lap!

Elmo was very excited too. He ran about cooing and bowing as he does, then he sang to me on the sofa, prancing about my outstretched hand as I tried to stroke him.

Today, as I spend the last free day with them, they would not leave me alone. Elmo and Georgie have been calling to me constantly and I’ve had to give them both attention and cuddles at the same time while keeping them separate so they don’t fight. I guess this means Elmo did miss me after all. :D

Of course Georgie was jealous whenever I gave Elmo any kisses and cuddles (she always makes a bee-line to us when she hears me giving him any attention) and now she’s a bit touchy with me, pecking me every now and then as if to let me know she doesn’t approve of my “cheating”.

I’ve missed my pigeons a lot and am glad to be home with them. Here are the two rascals together, vying for my affections:

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Georgie (left) and Elmo (right)


The sun is up and the curtains are drawn, however, sunlight is seeping through and the room is light. A little feral pigeon is waiting patiently on the bedside table for his mummy and daddy to wake up. What’s this? One of them stirs, turns over. Cue loud cooing and wing waggling from the pigeon. “Good morning, mummy. Good morning, daddy,” he’s saying. No response from the bed. The humans haven’t woken up yet. The pigeon goes quiet again, settles down and waits. Again, one of the humans have moved and the pigeon starts cooing, calling them to wake up. This occurs every time there is movement from the bed. The pigeon is waiting and watching.

Eventually the humans wake up. Cue ecstatic morning greetings from the pigeon on the bedside table. Mummy and daddy greet him back. Having a lie in is nearly impossible when you have a watchful pigeon by your side.

This is how we are woken up by Elmo in the weekend. If Georgie hears us getting up and moving about she’ll jump at the bars of her cage, demanding to be let out. So, the other morning I went to get her and brought her back to the bedroom. I wasn’t ready to get up and start the day just yet, so Georgie was allowed to be on the bed for a bit.

Elmo tucked his head under his body and waited for Richard to give him a cuddle. The head-tucking is a quirk of Elmo’s (a possible side effect from having had PMV as a baby). We find it so adorable.

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Georgie is thinking of having a preen. Elmo's keeping an eye on her.

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Georgie preening. Elmo decides to hop off the bed.

After a bit of time on the bed both pigeons decide to hop off the bed to start their day. Elmo hides behind the bedroom door – a favourite cooing spot – and calls incessantly to us. Georgie finds a nice spot behind the mirror and coos and dances excitedly when I come down to see her.


I found Elmo on the window sill again today! Yay!

I could hear him cooing through the closed door and when I opened it I saw him bowing up and down on the window sill, cooing to a woodpigeon that was in the garden. Silly boy!

As soon as Elmo saw me though, he flew onto the bed and danced over to me – obviously happy to see me!

Elmo’s flying has been getting better (who’s been giving him lessons?). When we first received Elmo he was understandably unsure about us and his new home, and he would do some nervous backflips when he tried to fly. Over time, as he realised how much we love him and how safe his home is, Elmo’s flying became more controlled and less erratic.

Although Elmo cannot fly properly, he does like to have a good flap every now and then. He’ll stretch his wings and lift off from the sofa and land on the floor – then take off from the floor for a few more short flights up.

Once Elmo actually flew at Richard when Richard was mock-running away from him! He’s never done that before and hasn’t done it since, but it was very impressive.

Here’s some old footage of Elmo home alone (taken from the webcam):

Elmo greeting us through the window:

And when we opened the door:


Many of us will have seen the delightful performance of a male pigeon courting a female. It’s one of those beautiful things that happens all around us and we often hear the cooing of a male pigeon in his courtship if we cannot see the display.

Many people find the performance comical to watch. Usually the female is busy eating or minding her own business when a male comes over to her and starts fanning his tail and dancing around her. It can seem very pushy and desperate – especially when the female ignores him.

Pigeons are monogamous and pair for life, and when one of the partners dies or goes missing, the other will eventually search for a new mate. Pigeons are dedicated parents and therefore have a strong bond with one another. Amongst paired pigeons, the courtship display is performed to reaffirm and reinforce the bond between them.

The following shows the repertoire of their courtship:

Pigeon courtship behaviours

BOWING: a male puffs out his neck feathers, lowers his head, and turns around in circles.

TAIL-DRAGGING: a male spreads his tail and drags it while running after a female.

DRIVING: a male pigeon runs closely behind a female to move her away from other males.

BILLING: a female puts her beak inside the male's beak.

MATING: a male stands on top of a female and flaps his wings to keep his balance.

CLAPPING: after mating, a male pigeon may make a display flight. In this display, he "claps" his wings twice.

All the above illustrations are by Julie Zickefoose and can be found at: Bird Watchers’ Notebook: Pigeon Courtship and Pigeon Courtship.

One behaviour not illustrated is when billing both the male and female will briefly preen some feathers on their back or wing before returning to more billing. I don’t know why they do this, it’s just part of their courtship ritual. In already paired pigeons, a lot of mutual head preening will also occur before billing and mating.


In my early naive pigeon keeping days I innocently thought that pigeons are quiet birds, that they only occassionally cooed when in a mating mood. Little did I realise just how noisy they actually are! Pigeons coo all the time! Dora was almost evicted for it (in the end she was evicted to find a mate in an aviary). Even though Richard would be sitting right beside Elmo, Elmo would decide to jump off the sofa, waltz into another room and then coo incessantly and loudly for Richard to come to him. How demanding!

Sometimes Elmo and Georgie will have a cooing contest. George snuggled under my chin, cooing with contentment and Elmo in his nest cooing excitedly to Richard. If we touched them they’d explode into a song of love, each harmonising with the other, totally ignoring the fact that we might be trying to watch a movie or read a book in peace.

Pigeons in aviaries are noisy creatures too – the male strutting his stuff and cooing to attract the females, pigeons fighting for space on perches and for better nesting sites, and the males cooing in the nests with eagerness when the females choose to be with them. I have found that female pigeons tend to be quieter if they have a pigeon mate, however, if they have a human mate then they change into attention seeking little things. I think it may be because naturally male pigeons are always trying to impress the females, however, us humans don’t spend all our time cooing and dancing to our pet pigeon – we interact differently – and I think the female pigeons realise this and therefore take on the role of males; trying to get our attention instead. … Just my theory.

So beware those of you who are thinking of having a pigeon as a pet because you’ve been told they are quiet! :) … Well, compared to the loud screeches and imitations that some parrot species can do, then yes, pigeons are quiet. But they aren’t silent. They have a voice and will be heard! :)

Just listen to all the cooing in these videos:


Remember Dora’s skyscraper nest? Well, Dora laid a few eggs in it but unfortunately they fell out and cracked on the floor. :(

The nest was just too high and flat – the eggs didn’t stand a chance. After this incident, Dora and Pidge have modified the nest to make it more egg friendly (they reduced the amount of straw and made a dip in the nest to nestle the eggs). I check the aviary for eggs every day and replace any with fake ones, but so far no eggs in the nest. I’m sure Dora will be laying a pair again soon.

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And remember headless Elmo? Sometimes we look over and see Elmo in this position – his head tucked under his body, in-between his legs. He’s all quiet and waiting patiently for us to notice, and we don’t know for how long he’s been in that position waiting. Once we’ve noticed and placed our hands near him, Elmo will start cooing and wiggling his wings in happiness – still with his head tucked away.

I sometimes fear that Elmo will fall asleep on his head and suffocate himself, so I gently tease his head out from under him. Then, if he’s in a generous mood, he’ll let me stroke him without pecking me.

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Today there was a cooing contest between Elmo and Georgie – both calling to me! I had a half day at work today so I returned home early to do some much needed housework, all due to the fact that Elmo and Georgie are routinely pulling out their feathers in another one of their contests: Who can shed the most feathers in one sitting?! The slightly bald, pin cushion look must be in fashion this season. (Don’t be alarmed – they aren’t feather picking in the sense of captive parrots, rather just removing loose feathers during their moult.)

Anyway, back to the housework and a freshly clean home – a task not liked but a sight and smell much loved. So there I was with a duster in one hand, vacuum cleaner in the other (don’t you just wish you could extract an extra pair of arms when needed?), the washing machine on with its second load, the tumble dryer on with its first – and above the noise of all this I could hear both Elmo and Georgie cooing loudly in their spots on the sofa, stubbornly ignoring the fact that I was preoccupied and not available to cuddle them.

Earlier, Elmo and Georgie were ecstatic to have me home early – both singing and dancing in their pleasure (Georgie twirling on the spot, Elmo prancing about). I gave them both individual attention – lots of kisses and cuddles – but had to break away to start the housework. They obviously didn’t approve of this and made it clear by their loud and insistent cooing.

How could I ignore them? How could I be so cruel as to not spend another hour cuddled up to them? … But being the non-domestic Goddess that I am, I knew that if I stopped for a moment in between the housework I’d never start up again. So, I put on my blinders and ploughed through the work until the house was spick and span, after which I treated myself to a drink and snacks whilst watching day-time TV with Georgie on my shoulder snuggled into my hair and Elmo by my side – asleep in his nest – all cooing subsided and fulfilled. Bliss.


In yesterday’s post I posted a video of my husband bowing his head and cooing to a tame pigeon who responded by flying onto his head and shoulders. The pigeon reacted to his attempt at talking pigeon, which we found very amusing, despite being a behaviour we had seen before.

After we had lived with Georgie and Elmo for a while our behaviour towards other pigeons changed. When I first met Dora at a wildlife rescue centre I bowed and cooed to her and she responded by rushing up to me, fanning her tail and dancing around in a circle. I found her response amazing and couldn’t wait to try it out with other feral pigeons! Sure enough, both my husband and I found that when you bow your head and coo like a pigeon you’ll get some sort of a response from the receiving pigeon – ranging from a slight cock of the head to a full blown rush and dance routine!!

It tends to work more on feral pigeons that are a bit tame (either because they had been hand-reared or because they are used to being around humans). Little Minnie also responded well to bowing and a bit of cooing. And today I bowed and cooed at a feral pigeon at work who was making too much noise in the I.C.U. (it kept calling out for attention) and it stopped what it was doing, cocked its head at me and made a movement as if it was going to come towards me, however, it then thought against it and just watched me making a fool of myself as bowed my head, shook my shoulders up and down and cooed like a pigeon (or tried to at any rate).

I don’t know what we’re saying in pigeon when we imitate their behaviour, but it seems to attract their attention and encourage a response. Maybe we’re being a bit too flirtatious? Whatever message we’re conveying with our silly behaviour it is certainly getting their attention!