Have you heard it? It’s the sound of pigeon applause.
The wings of rock pigeons (Columba livia) often make whistling sounds when they fly, but during the breeding season the males’ wings make a clapping sound, too.
Like many birds, pigeons have courtship rituals before and after mating. Here’s a summary of what they do from Cornell’s Birds of North America:
- Before they mate:
- The male struts around the female: standing tall, inflating his neck, cooing, bowing and fanning his tail.
- They preen each other on the head and neck.
- The female asks the male to feed her, like a nestling, by regurgitation. This may be called “billing”
- They mate: The female crouches. The male mounts her and balances with open wings.
- Afterward the male may do a post-copulatory flight display:
- He takes off loudly clapping his wings on the upstroke (behind him) for 3-5 wingbeats.
- And then he glides with his wings up in a “V”
Play the audio clip below to hear that distinctive clap.
Listen for it this spring.
(photo from Shutterstock. Click on the image to see the original)