Please Explain: Pigeons

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pigeons seem to be everywhere in New York City, and they fill city squares in London and Venice. We’ll take a look at why these birds thrive in urban areas around the word and how they’re able to find their way home from hundreds of miles away. Andrew Blechman, managing editor of Orion magazine and author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird, and Courtney Humphries, author of Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan…and the World, join us.


Andrew Blechman and Courtney Humphries

Comments [39]


hello here im a pigeon master and i know that pigeons are so domestic and they need clean water and clean place to live. If you want your pigeons to get paired up so put them both in a cage together for 3-4 days and they will start to get used to each other and decide to mate, and at last they will want to breed. To make them breed you should give them a proper place which is not damp and not hot it must be in room temprature and you should make sure that it is out of the prediaters reach, im not saying that it should be so high or so down it just should be normal just safe.After this you should put some of the nesting meterials in the cage, like tobbaco stem, hay, dried grass or pine needles. after this task you should leave them both in the cage for a while and then you will see that the female would be sitting and the male would be picking up the stuff and puting it under the female and after 1-2 days the female will lay her first egg, you must know that the pigeons give eggs after 10 days of mating. so when she has layed the first egg the parents would not actually incubate it until the second egg has not layed, it is layed after 1 or 2 days then both the eggs will hatch after 18-19 days. NOTE:do not touch the eggs ore the babie will die or not stay in it's 100%. :o PLEASE IF YOU GUYS ARE ON FACEBOOK PAKISTAN THEN GO ON THE PAGE PIGEON LOVERS AND LIKE IT I PROMISS IT WILL BE INTRESTING SO PLES GO ON FACEBOOK SEARCC AND WRITE PIGEON LOVERS. :)

Feb. 06 2013 09:23 AM

This may seem trite considering the severity of the 9/11 horror but the pigeons suffered too. We live five blocks away and saw them come to our park with singed and feathers hanging. Some were crippled and bound with the small wires that make up the huge cables from the exposed bowels of the city. Over a long period of time, a small group of park goers would work together to catch and free their legs and feet. Guess we all felt kindness towards all at that awful time. I came to know and like pigeons after this.

Aug. 17 2012 02:14 PM
Steph from NJ

Re. why do pigeons bob their heads? They do so in order to generate depth perception. Since their eyes' fields of vision don't overlap, they need to bob in order for their brains to triangulate and create depth perception via the binocular effect. (Think of the up-down positions as their equivalent of our left-right eyes; same principle.)

The advantage of pigeons's eyes being so positioned is their superior scope of field; IIRC, it's approx. 330 degrees. The pigeon seems to have "eyes in the back of its head"... and nearly does!

Aug. 17 2012 02:13 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I have seen pigeons on the street eating fried chicken.

Aug. 17 2012 01:58 PM

I have pigeons roosting under my A/C and under the A/C's in the apartments above me. Their droppings are a problem. How an I humanely get them to move on? Please provide a response -- this is really a drag. Thanks

Aug. 17 2012 01:57 PM
Jacob Raab

The term "stool pigeons" came from the time in the 19th century when the great flocks of passenger pigeons were being killed. A tame pigeon was set up on a post or stool to attrack the flock to the nets.

Aug. 17 2012 01:56 PM
Ricard from Germany

To my great shame as a youth my group of friends occasionally fed Alka Seltzer chips to pigeons. Only to watch them foam at the beak and occasionally die.

Aug. 17 2012 01:56 PM
Suzanne from Brooklyn

Although some folks on the show today say they never see dead pigeons-- I frequently saw frozen dead pigeons one winter in Boston. Why would pigeons freeze to death?

Aug. 17 2012 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Don't pigeons carry West Nile virus? I don't think they transmit it directly to humans, but mosquitos carry it btwn. birds & humans, right?

Aug. 17 2012 01:54 PM
Marie from Brooklyn, NY

For those who are interested Cornell University Ornithology Lab runs a citizen science project called Project PigeonWatch. The website is: The site has all sorts of information about pigeons, including the story of Cher Ami, a messenger pigeon who is credited with saving hundreds of lives during WWI. We use this in our fifth grade science program and the students really enjoy it.

Aug. 17 2012 01:54 PM
ANITA from Manhattan

I am a bird lover, but a pigeon built a nest under my air conditioner a few years ago, and I got a bird mite infestation in my apartment. It was a nightmare; they were almost impossible to get rid of. These things can go dormant for an indefinite period of time (it has been two years, and periodically, I am bitten and find a stray mite in my bed clothes). That is the reason I am wary of living in too-close proximity with pigeons. Or any wild bird.

Aug. 17 2012 01:52 PM


Aug. 17 2012 01:51 PM
anne in manhattan

I love pigeons but love concerned neighbors too... so, of course, I don't encourage them on my terrace but I do hand feed the doves there. Everyday a pigeon tries to invade the feeding situation and I squirt him with a water gun. He never lands and this may work for other pigeons as well. I hope for the day we can control their populations and make better friends for them. They are such sweet birds. The mourning doves that I have come to know are mean to each other and not happy being together unless they are with their chosen mate and immediate offspring.

Aug. 17 2012 01:49 PM
Janet from NYC

I haven't heard this segment from the beginning, so I may be repeating what someone has already said. Although I am an animal lover, I have experienced pigeons taking up residence on my air-conditioner and window sill, and the big problem was their droppings. Also, the difficulty in getting them to leave.

Aug. 17 2012 01:49 PM
Luca from brooklyn

Where do pigeons go to die?
Why in spite of the fact that there are so many pigeons around you see so few dead ones on the streets?

Aug. 17 2012 01:47 PM

As per Mo Willems' fantastic children's book, why CAN'T we let the pigeon drive the bus?

Aug. 17 2012 01:46 PM
MICHAEL MCBEAN from NJ commuter

Is there a specific angle that pigeons cannot land on? I, as an architect, would very much like to know. I heard 34degrees from flat is too steep for pigeons and they just slide right off. :)

Aug. 17 2012 01:44 PM
Alan Goldberg from Mnahattan

We were lucky enough to have a pigeon with a new baby beneath it for a couple of weeks on our air conditioner. We never saw the hatching, but , sadly, when we came back one day, the mother was gone and the baby was dead, clearly eaten by some other animal. Who or what might have done that. We live in the back of an apartment building, on the 4th floor.


Aug. 17 2012 01:43 PM
Fred from Queens

Why do pigeons move their heads back and forth when they walk? (I never see that in other birds.)

Aug. 17 2012 01:42 PM
Sara B. from nyc

Oy! I have a pigeon couple that roosts - noisily and messily - on my fire escape and I have observed several generations of their offspring. I'm afraid to say that "Ugly Duckling" is generous re. their appearance ;)

PS Patricia Highsmith has a great short story about pigeons....

Aug. 17 2012 01:41 PM
M from NY

vs pigeons on your sill: "HotFoot" and more aggressively, "CatClaw"

Aug. 17 2012 01:40 PM
Dan K from NYC

Male pigeons seem to make a play for every female that crosses their path. Can't they tell if the female is interested? What makes a female choose a mate?

Aug. 17 2012 01:40 PM
mc from Brooklyn

Rock doves

Aug. 17 2012 01:39 PM


Aug. 17 2012 01:38 PM
Eve jochnowitz from Greenwich Village

I used to see baby pigeons when I lived in an apartment that faced the back of another building. A lovely hen had a nest on the side of the wall and we got to see the the babies at all te awkward stages of their development.

Aug. 17 2012 01:38 PM
Bobby G from East Village

Pigeons are filthy, but beautiful. Each one is different.

Aug. 17 2012 01:37 PM
Rod from NewJersey

David Blain perfomed an act in an Manhattan park with an apparently dead pidgeon that he picked up and brought back to life. Was that a trained pidgeon or a video-editing slight of hand?


Aug. 17 2012 01:37 PM
Al Streit from New York, NY

Because people treat pigeons worse than other birds, they treat them in cruel ways.

Today, a pigeon is without water or food in a trap in Penn Station in NYC. The railroad has left it there, and our group, Pigeon People, has asked the ASPCA to free it and stop the trapping program.

Killing does nothing to prevent animals from coming into or landing on a building. It merely invites new ones to take their places. Then why do people do it? First, cruelty. Secondly, people can get away with more cruelty to pigeons than to other aniimals because of the false reputation that was given to pigeons years ao.

Luckily, their reputation is improving. It's easy to see this by the more respectful writing in the media, the support by NYC's ASPCA for pigeons in need, and the burgeoning in numbers of rescues, rehabilitators, and shelters that treat pigeons right.

There are very few pigeons in the LIRR station. While of course we don't want their poop on the floor, that can be prevented the way the buildings of Madison Square Garden next door do it. The simplest, kindest deterrence methods are also the most effective - and they're the cheapest. Plain wire supported by posts was on the horizontal beams of the MSG the last time i observed it. There are other good ways.

Al Streit, Pigeon People

Aug. 17 2012 01:37 PM
Rodger from Warwick

We took in a wounded racing homer in Spring. We tracked down the owner, who was indifferent to retrieving his broken bird. We rehabilitated the pigeon, and we have become quite attached to it. After five months, can we assume that the bird will imprint on our house as its home, or, if we let it out for free flight, will it forever fly back to its original coop?

Aug. 17 2012 01:35 PM
Danielle Jensen

When I was a psy major at city college I worked in a behavioral lab training pigeons and rats to perform tasks for food. Pigeons learned very fast to peck specific colors in different sequences. I was impressed. I did not always appreciate them pooping on my window sills but over the last 20 years walking my succession of dogs in the park has given me a new found appreciation of them. They come in some beautiful color combinations with alot of iridescence.I see loads of them in the park and in the trees. P.S. I like squirrels more now also. I guess I'm becoming a softee in my old age.

Aug. 17 2012 01:34 PM
Melissa from West Windsor, NJ

For your guests: I once saw a black-and-white picture of pigeons with little cameras around their necks, as they were apparently used as spies (?) during the war. Could you expand on this topic?

Aug. 17 2012 01:32 PM
John A from

I (now) seem to need explained why pigeons don't get the bird flu.

Aug. 17 2012 01:32 PM
Emily Gover from New York, NY

What are some common places where pigeons build their nests in cities?

Aug. 17 2012 01:30 PM
Tara from East Orange, New Jersey

Amongst the flocks of pigeons I have seen over my tens of years I have never seen a baby pigeon. What do they look like?

Thank you.

Tara from East Orange, New Jersey

Aug. 17 2012 01:29 PM
Ken from Upper West Side

A nextdoor neighbor insists on feeding pigeons from her back deck, creating noise and mess for us and probably attracting mice to our building. I understand that there is currently no law against this, but I’m wondering if she is really doing the pigeons a favor by feeding them.

Aug. 17 2012 01:27 PM

absolutely love pigeons, each one with their iridescence, brilliant eyes, cooing and graphic feather patterns. we need more, not less, non-humans in cities.

Aug. 17 2012 01:06 PM
Al Streit from New York, NY

People catch diseases mostly from other people. And from mammals like dogs and cows than from birds.

Among birds, we're more likely to get sick from poultry than pigeons, because chickens and turkeys and so on get bird flu.

Pigeons do not get bird flu. They don't carry it. They hardly ever get west Nile virus, either. Other diseases they have are about the same ones other kinds of birds get.

How then did the wrong info about pigeons spread? When somebody starts a rumor but people haven't learned the truth, the rumor spreads.

Al Streit, Pigeon People, and educational, advocacy, and rescue group for pigeons and other urban wild animals.
Al.Streit at Yahoo . com

Aug. 17 2012 12:57 PM
peter from manhatten

some claim that the pigeons spread disease. is there evidence for this? if so which diseases do they spread?

Aug. 17 2012 10:42 AM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Leonard previewed his show by calling these birds "flying rats". These" flying rats "were critical in winning World Wars' 1 and 2. They simply want to hang out and eat and we persecute them with poison. Let's hope the interview with Mr. Blechman and Ms. Humphries will clear up the hysteria.

Aug. 17 2012 03:02 AM

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