Pigeons are medium-sized birds in the family Columbidae that occupy many habitat types on nearly every continent worldwide. Many pigeon species thrive in large, urban environments where few wild animals can survive.
Common pigeons Columba livia, also called rock pigeons or rock doves, were introduced outside their native range of Europe, Asia, and North Africa and have expanded into those new environments. This pigeon species is the most common urban bird species worldwide.
In addition, most domesticated pigeons are descendants of the Common Pigeon. Over many generations, these captive-bred birds changed in appearance. Sometimes, domestic pigeons escape and create feral urban populations that intermix with wild Common Pigeons.
Generally, wild pigeons can live more than six years in the wild, particularly in urban areas where they usually have easy access to food. Domestic pigeons can live over ten years if their owners care for them properly. Feral pigeons may live for three years in the wild.
How Long Do Domesticated Pigeons Live?
People keep domestic pigeons for many reasons. They raise them for food, race them, or train them to carry messages, like homing pigeons. Throughout history, pigeons have been used to carry messages in wartime, a dangerous occupation for these birds.
People who raise pigeons as pets and provide the best care may see them live for more than 20 years. But many captive pigeons are used in ways that do not allow them to live long lives, such as raising them for food.
How Long Do Feral Pigeons Live?
When domesticated pigeons escape captivity and live in the wild, they become feral pigeons. Most of these birds cannot care for themselves in the wild and are at risk of predation and starvation. Feral pigeons usually live for only 2 to 3 years.
Feral pigeons are common worldwide because escape occurs regularly during pigeon races or when handlers are not careful while opening the dovecotes or cages. These birds do not care for themselves well and typically have offspring that also have short lifespans.
How Long Do Wild Pigeons Live?
Pigeons occupy many habitat types around the world. They are generally prolific, allowing them to survive and withstand environmental changes. They can build their nests on buildings or trees and produce as many as ten chicks annually.
While wild pigeons can live more than 15 years, most do not survive that long. On average, pigeons live for around six years before they die from predation, disease, or injury. Even in urban environments, pigeons are common prey for some animals.
What Kills Pigeons?
Pigeons will eat grains, grasses, fruits, and insects. These opportunistic feeders will even eat trash or crops, depending on their environment and the availability of other food sources.
Many predators eat pigeons, especially in urban environments, where prey sources are less available. Large raptors such as peregrine falcons, owls, eagles, and hawks often capture pigeons. Pigeons are the primary food source for peregrine falcons in urban areas.
Other animals, such as cats, foxes, snakes, rats, ferrets, raccoons, and crows, also prey on adult pigeons, young pigeons, or eggs. Young pigeons and eggs are the most susceptible to predation from land-based predators, while adults can quickly fly away and avoid predation.
In addition to predation, pigeons are also susceptible to diseases that can decrease their lifespan. Some diseases, such as Cryptococcosis, Histoplasmosis, and Psittacosis, can be spread to humans through their feces, although these occurrences are rare.
What Is the Oldest Pigeon?
Domestic pigeons that remain in a safe environment, free from stress, and have easy access to proper nutrition can live over 30 years. The oldest captive homing pigeon, Kaiser, lived for 32 years before it died in 1949.
Kaiser was a domestic homing pigeon that was captured by American troops from Germany during World War 1 and used to breed other pigeons in the US Army Signal Corps Pigeon Program.
The oldest feral pigeon that lived was more than six years old when researchers recaptured the bird in Kansas before releasing it back into the wild.
The oldest wild White-Crowned Pigeon that lived was more than 14 years old and lived on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The oldest Woodpigeon lived for over 17 years in the United Kingdom. Other wild pigeon species have similar lifespans but are not as well documented.