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Four years ago today my husband and I adopted a very special little pigeon. Little did we realise the impact this pigeon would have on our lives. We had no idea and no warning, so when the little pigeon showed us how special he was, we weren’t prepared for how swiftly he’d become an integral part of our family. … I am, of course, talking about our darling Elmo. He came to us desperately needing a new home – a home living with people, not in an aviary with pigeons. Elmo has special requirements due to his less than pigeon-like upbringing. He requires a person to bond with, to love.

Four years ago Elmo was 8 years old, which obviously means that this year Elmo is 12!!! We have made today, the date we adopted him, his hatchday. So please, everyone who knows and loves Elmo, please wish him a very happy hatchday! :)

Happy Hatchday, darling Elmo!!!! xxxx

For those of you who have pigeons who are in their 20′s I know 12 years of age is still considered young. Sometimes Elmo looks like an old man to me, other times he looks like a baby. I cannot imagine all the things he’s seen in his 12 years. With us, Elmo has a sheltered life and is loved and is free to give his love without any restrictions. And boy, does he give his love!

Every day we are reminded of the love a pigeon is capable of. People may scoff at the idea of a pigeon in love, but when you observe them you can clearly see how deeply pigeons can feel. I don’t subscribe to the thought that animals only act out of instinct. I dare you to watch our videos of Elmo (and Georgie) and not be amazed: Pigeons as Pets YouTube channel

But I digress – today is about celebrating Elmo!

Thinking of what would be the best way to spoil Elmo today, I bought him his favourite treats: pine nuts and sunflower hearts. The only other present I know Elmo would love is lots of attention and love, which he gets every day anyway, so we’ll have to try harder today to give him extra! :D

Hatchday celebrations with little glasses filled with seed. The rest are in a jar for Elmo to raid when he wants:

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Elmo doesn’t look impressed with his party hat:

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Georgie definitely doesn’t appreciate her clown hat:

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Carrying on from my last post about the feral pigeons in my garden, I noticed a larger and suspiciously “noble” looking pigeon amongst the flock. Upon closer inspection I saw that the pigeon has a white ring around its leg. This threw me a bit since I’ve never seen a checkered racing pigeon before, only blue bars, although I know racing pigeons can come in a variety of colours.

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Checkered racing pigeon

The racing pigeon looks healthy and strong (and very beautiful!), with no signs of any problems with his flight and I can only speculate that he became lost during a race and decided to team up with the feral pigeons for safety, companionship and intel on the good food locations. I don’t know how long he’ll stay with the feral pigeons before deciding to return to his home. He may never return if he falls in love with a feral. :)

Racing pigeons generally do well in the wild if they join a feral pigeon flock, unlike fancy pigeons that may have some unusual feather shapes that make it hard for them to fly away from predators quickly (please read my post about the welfare of fancy pigeons). This is one reason why you should never release a fancy pigeon into the wild. Racing pigeons, however, are bred to fly fast and strong, and I’ve seen racing pigeons stick with feral pigeons so I believe that they are capable of surviving in the wild. Maybe their genetic contribution to the feral population helps with the overall genetic health of wild pigeons? I have seen feral pigeons that look like they have racing blood in them (it’s often the shape of the head and beak that gives them away: very “Roman nose”).

I wonder: If I go out into the garden and hold some food in my hand, would the racer fly down to me?

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Can you spot the racer?

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology were conducting research into feral pigeon behaviour and colour distinctions/morphs, however, they have now discontinued it. I don’t know what the results of their research is, but I’d be very interested to know. However, this website has taken up the challenge of finding more about pigeon colour variation: Feral Pigeon Project

Pigeon colour morphs:

pigeon color morphs


Saw this video clip and found it very interesting. I love the way the man talks about the loft being a home for wild pigeons as he’s stroking one on his arm! They obviously trust him and you can clearly see the love in the man’s eyes.

More about pigeon droppings and its uses: The scoop on pigeon poop!

Unfortunately, anyone outside of the UK cannot view the video. (I couldn’t find the video on YouTube.)



Last night I realised something – I’ve never seen a nature programme about pigeons. You know, a National Geographic or BBC nature documentary that shows the life of a woodpigeon, feral pigeon or collared dove. Sure, we’ve all seen the peregrine falcon chasing a pigeon to eat it – but usually the programme is about the predator not the prey.

I’ve seen numerous documentaries about the busy period of spring, with blackbirds, robins and blue tits feeding their young – but where are the shots of pigeons feeding their young? Why don’t they deserve any screen time?

So I did some searching on the net and found loads of videos about racing pigeons or about predators and pigeons, and some documentaries on feral pigeons in the city (e.g. are they pests?) – but what I’m really looking for is a full length nature programme about the life of pigeons: their beauty, their dedication as partners and parents, their adaptability and life in the wild.

Maybe my internet searching skills aren’t up to scratch, because the only proper programme I found is this, Brilliant Beasts: Pigeon Genius, courtesy of The Pigeon Nest (thank you!). Each video runs for about 10-14 minutes.

Although I didn’t like the voice of the narrator, nor his style (I prefer Sir David Attenborough! I grew up watching his programmes), it is an excellent documentary about feral pigeons – truly championing the pigeon! It shows how pigeons are one of the most adaptable, productive, loving and intelligent species in the world! Who’s with me in thinking that they will one day rule the world?!

In the second video – at 08:39 – they state that “Pigeons are perfect parents! … And it starts with a kiss!” – Love it!! :)

If you do not feel like watching all 4 videos then please watch the second video starting from around 08:14 about pigeons being parents. It will make your heart melt!

Now I really want to see a nature programme about woodpigeons, collared doves and other pigeons of the world!


Occassionally we receive fancy breeds of pigeons at my work – some have been injured but some are unharmed, having either escaped or become lost. In general, fancy breeds of pigeons don’t do well in the wild because many have exaggerated features and reduced ‘street-wise’ instincts, and are therefore easy targets for sparrowhawks, cats and people with pellet guns.

Here are the ones we’ve had so far this year. Although I have searched the net and through my pigeon breed encyclopedia book, I found it difficult to find out what breed of pigeon they all are. So please look kindly upon me. And help me out if you know I’m wrong.

All of these pigeons are doing well in their new homes:

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No idea what breed but maybe a Turkish Takla (tumbler)? I haven't seen it fly though.

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Juvenile Indian Fantail that was caught by a cat.

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Lahore pigeon

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I'm guessing Antwerp breed?

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Haven't identified this one. Mixed breed?

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Garden Fantails

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A type of highflier or tumbler? I'm leaning towards a Szegediner tumbler (Hungarian highflier), but truthfully, I have no idea.

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Archangel breed

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West of England Tumbler

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Any ideas? She's pure white with feathered feet.

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Apricot colouring but is she a specific breed?

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He has a high forehead so I think he's a fancy breed. Which though?

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Same with this one. High forehead and lovely colouring.

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Garden white pigeon (a.k.a. white dove).


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.