Category Archives: Doves & Chickens

Have You Ever Seen a Baby Pigeon?

Feral pigeon walking (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3 April 2024

City folks often see pigeons but all the birds are adults. Have you ever seen a baby pigeon?

Rock pigeons nest on cliffs in the wild or in nooks on high buildings or bridges in feral settings. This puts their nests high above our field of view and, since the young won’t leave the nest until they can fly, they don’t look like babies anymore when we finally see them. They look like their parents.

Every once in a while a pair of pigeons will choose a balcony or window ledge where the resident can see the nest. This happened for @LostInTheWildCanada who documented the pigeon family on YouTube.

video embedded from Lost in the Wild Canada on YouTube

Who knew that rock pigeon nestlings are covered in yellow-orange down? Who knew their eyes didn’t open for a week? Who knew they were so … ugly?

Rock pigeon nestlings, Day One and approximately Day Six (photos from Wikimedia Commons)

Now you know.

(credits are in the captions)

Pigeons Conspicuously Court in Public

Rock pigeon male (on right) struts and coos for his mate (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

28 March 2024

Peregrines hang out where their food is plentiful so they’re often in places with lots of pigeons. Watching peregrines, as I often do, means waiting (bored) for them to choose the perfect moment to catch a bird. Inevitably I watch pigeons while I wait for peregrines so I’ve seen a lot of pigeon courtship.

Most birds have a breeding season for a few months per year in spring and summer but rock pigeons, like humans, breed over and over all year long if there’s enough food to sustain their families. You can tell when they’re starting a new family because they court conspicuously.

Birds of the World’s rock pigeon account, quoted in the list below, explains the steps of courtship that escalate to the moment of copulation.

  • [Courtship] Begins with bowing and cooing, in which male stands tall, inflates crop, fans tail, struts in circle, bows head and neck while giving display coo. This is repeated many times while circling and moving around the female. 

  • Hetero-preening (“nibbling”) follows, male first, female later.
Rock pigeons “nibbling” as part of courtship (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
  • [Billing:] Female ultimately solicits feeding, male appears to regurgitate seed or liquid. Female may repeat …
Courtship billing (after cooing) in which male appears to be feeding female (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
  • … followed by a crouch with wings half raised. Male then mounts, balances with flapping wings while vents are opposed 1–2 seconds for sperm transfer.
Rock pigeons mating (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After mating the male may do a post copulatory display. Sometimes they fly together.

  • Post-copulatory display includes a few steps while standing tall, and often a display flight, usually by the male, in which wings are clapped together on an exaggerated upstroke for 3–5 wingbeats. Bird flies out to another perch, 40–80 m distant, clapping wings at least once and gliding with wings in a “V” between bouts of clapping
Two rock pigeons flying (photo from Shutterstock)
Two rock pigeons flying (photo from Shutterstock)

While you’re observing pigeon courtship there’s one more thing to notice. The male and female do not have the same plumage patterns because they choose mates that don’t look like themselves.

Turkey Day

Turkeys in a Pittsburgh backyard, 7 Nov 2023 (photo by Kathy Saunders)

23 November 2023

Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are thriving in Pittsburgh’s suburbs. This flock of 14 feels right at home in a Kathy Saunders’ backyard.

Meanwhile, where have all the city turkeys gone? A decade ago they were easy to find in Schenley Park and Oakland but I haven’t seen one here in three years. This vintage article describes an impromptu Turkey Day at WQED when six came for a visit in November 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(credits are in the captions)

The Original Drone

Homing pigeon in Germany (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4 September 2023, Labor Day

On Labor Day, when I honor working birds, homing pigeons come to mind because they’re willing to try almost anything their keepers invent.

For centuries homing pigeons made themselves extremely useful by carrying messages, especially during wartime. The messages were carried in a pack strapped to the bird’s chest or inserted in a message tube strapped to the bird’s leg.

Homing pigeon with message tube on its leg (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Then in 1907, German apothecary Julius Neubronner, who used pigeons to deliver medications, decided to try aerial pigeon photography. He designed an aluminum breast harness and a lightweight time-delayed miniature camera to fit on a homing pigeon. It worked so well with his own pigeons that he applied for a German patent.

Homing pigeon carrying a camera, 1926 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But, as Wikipedia explains, the patent office rejected his claim until he sent them pigeon-made aerial photos. They granted his patent in December 1908.

Aerial photos taken by homing pigeons (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Pigeon photography held great promise for World War I but was overshadowed by the invention of portable dovecoats to improve messaging and airplanes from which humans could do their own surveillance. So the fleets of camera-carrying pigeons just didn’t take off.

Three homing pigeons with cameras (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After World War II the CIA briefly flirted with the idea of pigeon photography but it, too, went nowhere. Now they have drones.

Recreational drone, July 2016 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I wonder if people realize that pigeons were the original drones.

Read more about Pigeon photography at Wikipedia. Happy Labor Day.

(photos from Wikimedia; click on the captions to see the originals)

Baby Doves Get Taken For A Ride

Juvenile mourning dove on a fence, 2008 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

15 August 2023

Last Sunday while Bob Donnan was at the Pirates’ game, two young birds nestled in the windshield wiper well of his car.

Yesterday [13 August] when our Chevy Bolt was parked at the South Hills Village – Public Rapid Transit garage, two young [Mourning] Doves nestled into the lower windshield area. We didn’t even notice them until exiting the garage into brighter light! 

The car is so quiet that their short ride didn’t alarm them. After I stopped the car and waited for all traffic to pass, I waved my hand toward them and they flew off, back toward the parking garage.

— email from Bob Donnan, 14 August 2023
Immature mourning doves are surprised to take a ride (video by Bob Donnan)

I could tell by the birds’ appearance that they are juvenile mourning doves because they look spotty rather than smooth. Juvenile body feathers are so new that each one has a pale tip, giving the bird a scalloped look. Compare the top photo of a juvenile with this one of an adult.

Mourning dove adult (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Why did the two birds hang out together?

Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) nest multiple times per season and at each nesting the female lays two eggs that hatch in 14 days and fledge 12-15 days later. Just before they fledge the father completely takes over feeding duty so his mate can cycle and lay a new clutch.

The siblings are dependent on their father for 12-15 days after they fledge (26-30 days old). During this period they stay together in the same area during the day, never straying far, waiting for dad to show up. In the nest they learned to associate his voice with a feeding so if he calls they come.

Interestingly they have good homing skills even at this young age. If juveniles are forced from their “reference area” before they are 21 days old — i.e. while still dependent on their father — they always return within 24 hours.

Why at the parking garage?

Mourning doves nest in trees, shrubs and even on the ground but they have no problem nesting near humans and, according to Birds of the World, “may use unusual human-made substrates for nest sites, e.g. rain spouts, mops hanging on walls, immobile car accessories.”

Hmmm. “Immobile car accessories.” These two are probably not the only baby doves who’ve been taken for a ride.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, video by Bob Donnan)

Count Wild Turkeys Now Through August

Wild turkey (photo by A. Drauglis via Flickr Creative Commons license)

Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are declining statewide in Pennsylvania and the PA Game Commission is working to find out why.

Their wild turkey population study continues this year with PGC asking folks to count and report wild turkeys in PA from July 1 through August 31. Use this link to make your report

Last year’s article provides all the details at …

p.s. Wild turkeys have declined a lot in my patch with a complete absence of wild turkeys in Schenley Park for the past two years. I used to see as many as 8.

(photo credits and links are in the caption)

Pigeons Clap In Courtship

Rock pigeon in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2 March 2023

It’s spring and our local pigeons (Columba livia) are prancing in courtship. The males bow and coo to their chosen mates and accompany their ladies in flight. When their courtship is successful the males clap their wings.

You can hear cooing and wing clapping in this audio clip …

… and see it as they fly in this video.

video from @MrMattperry on YouTube

Learn their courtship moves in this vintage article. Keep track of the pairs you see on the pavement. Pigeons mate for life!

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, video from @MrMattperry on YouTube, click on the captions to see the original)

Wild Turkeys Introduced

Two tom turkeys introduce themselves to the ladies (photo by Cris Hamilton)

30 December 2022

Wild turkeys introduce themselves to each other on a personal basis but when it comes to where they live humans get involved.

Last summer eBird revised their species maps to show “introduced” versus “native” ranges of all the birds. For North American species that have been introduced elsewhere in the U.S. the results were bi-colored orange and purple maps. See maps for introduced house finches and bobwhites at Common Birds, Exotic Ranges.

Apparently wild turkeys were introduced, too. So how do the native turkeys stay neatly on their own side of the Washington-Idaho border? Don’t they introduce themselves to the other guys?

(photo by Cris Hamilton)

Wild Turkey Fight?

Wild turkey male, strutting (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

23 Nov 2022

Wild turkeys are ancestors of the domestic turkeys we eat on Thanksgiving. Understandably, wild turkeys avoid humans but in rare instances a male becomes aggressive toward people. This happens because turkeys are social birds.

Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) flocks have a social structure called a pecking order that’s especially important during the breeding season in March to May. Dominant males puff and strut and confront other males to maintain their own dominance. If a subordinate gets out of line the dominant turkey struts and gobbles at him, pecks him, or flies at him with spurs exposed. Notice the spur below.

Male wild turkey, focus on the spur (cropped photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A dominant male who is acclimated to people may mistake us as subordinates and try to put us in our place. Occasionally one becomes fixated on bicycles and the cyclists riding them(*).

In one case in Livermore, California an aggressive wild turkey made a motorist’s day. A policeman stopped a speeding driver and was going to issue a ticket but a wild turkey saw the motorcycle and challenged the police officer.

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has advice on how to prevent wild turkey aggression toward people.

Aggressive behavior towards people occurs when turkeys have become overly comfortable in the presence of humans, usually over several months or even years, in areas where turkeys are fed. [For this reason] Never intentionally leave out food like bird seed or corn in attempts to help or view turkeys.

Spring Tips for Aggressive Turkeys

(*) p.s. I wonder if male turkeys that attack bicycles mistake the wheels for large fanned tail displays.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons, videos embedded from YouTube)

Rainbow Dove

Pink-necked Green-pigeon Male BP_29012012_001

Pink-necked green pigeon, Singapore (photo by Chop Lip Mun embedded from Flickr)

1 August 2022

If our city pigeons were this beautiful, would we take them for granted?

The pink-necked green pigeon (Treron vernans), a native of Southeast Asia and Indonesia, is a fruit-eating forest bird well adapted to human landscapes. Graced with the colors of a pastel rainbow, the male is sometimes called the rainbow dove.

Pastel rainbow (free clipart from

His mate is much plainer, mostly olive green

Pink-necked Green-pigeon Couple BP_29012012_002

Pink-necked green pigeons: female foreground, male in background (photo by Chop Lip Mun embedded from Flickr)

Their voices do not sound like pigeons.

Despite the female’s camouflage, nesting safely is a challenge. When she sees a threat approaching she opens her wings to look larger but her display doesn’t scare off the male Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) who successfully steals her eggs. (Despite their appearance Asian koels are cuckoos, not crows.)

As for the pigeons, they will court and lay a new clutch very soon.

p.s. The photo at top has been making the rounds of social media without attribution. It took me a while to find the original location and photographer: Singapore, January 2012, by Chop Lip Mun. I have embedded his photos using Flickr’s sharing tool.

(photos by Chop Lip Mun embedded from Flickr, sound from Xeno Canto, pastel rainbow clipart from; click on the captions to see the originals)