What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?

What do baby pigeons eat?
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  • Post published:May 18, 2023
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What do baby pigeons eat?

Learn all about what baby pigeons eat.

Hello, fellow bird enthusiasts! Today, I’d like to address a topic that is close to my heart and hopefully will prove informative for you too.

We’re going to delve into the fascinating world of baby pigeons, also known as squabs, specifically focusing on their diet.

You may wonder, “Why does it matter what baby pigeons eat?” It’s not like we’re planning to prepare a gourmet meal for them, right?

Jokes aside, understanding the diet of baby pigeons can be crucial, especially if you’re in a situation where you’ve rescued a squab and are responsible for its well-being.

But even beyond that, it’s a fascinating glimpse into nature’s wonderful diversity and adaptability.

What do baby pigeons eat?

Understanding Baby Pigeons (Squabs)

So, let’s get started. First off, a baby pigeon is called a squab. Right from the time they hatch, squabs are fascinating little creatures.

Development and Growth of Baby Pigeons

The first thing to understand is that the development and growth of squabs are rapid and remarkable. Born blind and mostly helpless, these little birds undergo a total transformation in a surprisingly short time, growing to almost adult size in just about a month.

In their first week alone, squabs evolve from tiny hatchlings to more mature chicks with their eyes open and the first sign of pin feathers, tiny shafts indicating where the bird’s flight feathers will eventually grow. It’s a dramatic change, and it’s primarily driven by their diet, which brings us to their unique dietary needs.

Unique Dietary Needs of Baby Pigeons

Unlike many other birds, squabs don’t start out pecking at seeds or insects. Their early diet is entirely different and is one of the factors that enable their rapid growth. So, what is this wonder food that turns tiny hatchlings into robust fledglings? It’s crop milk!

What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?

This is going to be fascinating!

Check these articles:

What is Crop Milk?

Crop milk is a highly nutritious substance produced by both parent pigeons in a region of their esophagus known as the crop. Unlike mammalian milk, crop milk resembles a thick, creamy substance packed with proteins, fats, and immune-boosting antibodies. It’s like supercharged baby bird formula!

Importance of Crop Milk for Squab’s Development

This crop milk is fundamental to a squab’s development. Its high protein and fat content fuel the rapid growth, and the antibodies it contains help protect the young pigeon from disease. For the first week or so, crop milk is the squab’s entire diet.

Transitioning Diet

But of course, squabs can’t live on crop milk forever. As they grow, their diet needs to change.

Check other articles about baby pigeons:

Gradual Inclusion of Seeds and Grains

Around the second week, adult pigeons start to introduce solid foods. They begin by regurgitating partially digested seeds and grains mixed with the crop milk. Over time, as the squab grows, the proportion of crop milk decreases, and the proportion of solid food increases.

How Parent Pigeons Facilitate This Transition

This gradual transition is facilitated by the parent pigeons. They inherently know when to introduce solid foods and how to balance the mix of crop milk and seeds. By the end of about four weeks, squabs are generally ready to leave the nest, eat seeds and grains on their own, and start their journey as independent pigeons. Quite a journey, isn’t it?

Feeding Baby Pigeons in Captivity

When and Why You Might Need to Feed a Baby Pigeon

Before we dive into this, I’d like to emphasize that a baby pigeon’s best chance of survival always lies with its parents. However, sometimes, you might come across a baby pigeon that’s been orphaned or injured, or perhaps circumstances might prevent the parent pigeons from caring for their young. In such cases, the responsibility of feeding might fall on you.

This is exactly what happened to me and my pet pigeon Gerard. I found him as an abandoned baby pigeon surrounded by predators.

Suitable Foods for Baby Pigeons in Captivity

Feeding baby pigeons can be a bit tricky, primarily because of their unique dietary needs. Remember the crop milk we discussed? Unfortunately, that’s not something we can replicate exactly. But don’t worry; there are alternatives.

In the early days, you can feed the squab a commercial crop milk substitute often available at pet stores or online. If that’s not available, you might have to make a homemade mixture. A commonly used recipe combines small amounts of hard-boiled egg, yogurt, baby cereal, and apple juice. This blend aims to mimic the nutritional profile of crop milk.

As the squab grows, you can gradually introduce a “weaning mix”. This is usually a blend of finely chopped seeds and grains. Just like parent pigeons, you will need to transition from the milk substitute to the seed mix gradually.

Precautions and Tips for Feeding

Here are a few important things to remember when feeding baby pigeons:

  • Baby pigeons must be fed gently to avoid injury. Some people use a syringe or a pipette for feeding to ensure the food goes to the right place.
  • Make sure the food is at room temperature. Hot food can harm the squab’s crop.
  • Hydration is important but never try to give water directly using a syringe or pipette, as it can easily go down the wrong way and cause serious issues. The moisture in the food should generally be enough to keep them hydrated.
  • Always monitor the squab’s crop (the bulge in its chest). It should empty between feedings.

Comparing Baby Pigeons’ Diet with Other Birds

Similarities and Differences in Early Nutrition

While the precise diets of baby birds vary widely among species, most do rely on their parents for food initially. However, most baby birds are fed a diet of insects and worms – a sharp contrast to our squabs.

The Uniqueness of Pigeons’ Crop Milk

One thing that truly sets pigeons (and doves) apart is the production of crop milk. Few birds feed their young in this way. Flamingos and penguins are among the few others that do produce a similar substance. This unique adaptation allows pigeons to breed in areas where food sources may be inconsistent, providing a dependable food source for their babies.

In the end, while other baby birds are learning to wriggle and worm, our squabs are lapping up their super-nutritious crop milk, readying themselves to take to the skies!

Recap of main points

So, what have we learned about the diet of baby pigeons, or squabs? Let’s revisit the main points:

  • Baby pigeons start their lives by consuming a special substance produced by their parents known as crop milk. This nutrient-dense food is vital for their initial growth and development.
  • As the squabs mature, their diet gradually transitions from crop milk to a mix of seeds and grains, guided and facilitated by the parent pigeons.
  • In situations where human intervention is necessary, baby pigeons can be fed a crop milk substitute and later transitioned to a mix of finely chopped seeds and grains.
  • Care must be taken when feeding baby pigeons to avoid injury and ensure they’re receiving proper nutrition.

Final Thoughts on Baby Pigeon’s Diet

Understanding the unique diet of baby pigeons helps us appreciate the extraordinary nature of these birds and the care their parents put into raising them. Whether you’re an enthusiast, a rescuer, or a pet owner like me, knowing what and how to feed baby pigeons is essential in ensuring their health and survival.

And even though Gerard is all grown up now, knowing what he ate as a squab has definitely helped me understand him better. It reminds me that every species has its own unique journey and needs, something we should respect and honor.

Olga Parij

I have been in love with pigeons since I rescued a baby pigeon - Gerard - who is now my mate.

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