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Why Do You Never See Baby Pigeons?
The urban legend mystery about the young of the pigeon can now be explained.

Do you ever see baby pigeons? No? Why not? It is surely an enduring mystery of our time that the Pigeon, prolific species that it is, in cities, towns, and generally anywhere that there are people to donate food, is never seen in the juvenile form. In other words: You never see baby pigeons! [It takes Two, to produce baby pigeons]

You don't need to be a keen bird-watcher to verify this fact. Just observe for a while in any urban location where pigeons fly about in great flocks, and you'll notice to absence of any of the smaller, fluffy, cute, baby pigeons. It seems to make no sense at all!? Surely if these winged scavengers are being hatched from eggs, then there must exist a form of young pigeon inbetween that of egg and fully-grown adult pigeon!?

In fact to some it almost casts doubt upon Charles Darwin's great Theory of Evolution, as maybe pigeons are not actually born, but are made by some deity which then flings them down from heaven? Now let's not get too religious about this, even though there is some circumstantial evidence in the fact that pigeons are more numerous near to churches and other high religious buildings, and they do look a bit like doves (symbolic of peace), and they are also known for defiling any statues and other forms of idols of great people in public places, thus putting humility upon man's symbols of aggrandisement.

Well, for those of us who prefer to believe in science, and would like to have a scientific answer rather than some hazy notion based on faith, there is good news: There IS a scientific answer to the mystery of the missing/unseen baby pigeons. I'll explain this in a bit, but first some background:

Some explainers have despaired at the difficulty they have in convincing people about the fact. The facts of the life cycle of the wild feral pigeon seem to be missed on people, somehow. So, having succeeded in explaining such things as how logarithms work, why clocks go round clockwise, and how it is that satellites are going round in orbit and yet satellite dishes are fixed to walls, I thought I'd give it a go explaining the mystery of How Come You Never See Baby Pigeons. The thing is, what I do goes further than just knowing the answer, because I can also Explain it, (to people who don't already know!).

There are some remarkably witty answers to the Baby Pigeons mystery, which although wrong, still have some merit in humour: For example, someone said that pigeons are not a true species, but are in fact a cross-breed between escaped pet cockatiels and rats, and you never see any young because of a sense of shame! Another humorous comment was that the pigeons that you see around city landscapes are baby pigeons, and the adult form exist as giant birds of prey that soar about over mountains and snatch the unwary. There was also someone who suggested that maybe pigeons hatch out of eggs fully-grown, which at first sounds vaguely plausible until you realise the egg has got to have been laid by a pigeon, and that would make it awkward to say the least.

So anyway, here are the facts:

* Urban Pigeons are a natural variant of Rock Pigeons or Rock Doves, which dwell on cliff faces, thus making it difficult for foxes (urban or otherwise) to get them. Urban pigeons live within the manmade cliff faces provided by highrise buildings.

* Pigeons hatch out of eggs. The eggs are laid by pigeons in crudely constructed messy nests in inconveniently out-of-the-way places.

* The mum and dad pigeon take it in turns to look after the baby pigeons, high up out of the way of predators (sorry, folks, I think that means us).

* Adult pigeons are unable to push a little pigeon pram around the skies, and are unable to defend a roaming youngster against hawks, owls, cars, people with shotguns, electric telephone lines, and various other hazards that exist within the natural environment. So, adult pigeons look after their babies at home until they've grown up. Baby pigeons receive a home education rather than going to school. Baby pigeons are fed by the adults on a similar type of yicky gunk to that which baby people are fed on, except that the pigeon stuff has even more grit in it.

* If you were a baby pigeon, and you looked out from your nest at the sheer drop at the edge of a high building, you'd surely not fancy taking a leap off, at least not until you were sure you could fly. (Evolution favours those who don't kill themselves at an early age. A long time ago, those that killed themselves didn't grow up to have any offspring and so, the generations of today are the product of natural selection, from those that have more sense).

* When a baby pigeon has grown up and has a full set of feathers (ie it's fully fledged), which in the case of pigeons happens only a few weeks after it's been hatched out of an egg, it flies off and joins the throng of other full-sized pigeons which bless (or curse) the urban landscape.

* A newly fledged pigeon is almost indistinguishable from an average pigeon. Telling them apart is like looking at people and trying to determine who is over 18 and who isn't.

So, there you have it: Why you don't see baby pigeons.

Another thought: Some Yeti (abominable snowmen) halfway up Mount Everest, watching climbers go by, might murmur to each other "You never see any baby humans, do you?". The reason why is only self-evident once you realise that people don't take their babies into unreasonably hazardous environments. Similarly with pigeons, the wild environment of the city streets is quite hazardous, at least to baby birds, and cats would have them as sure as look at them.

What about baby cats? Do you see them? You do see kittens, but only indoors, in a mother cat's "nest", not stalking around dark alleys at night, or tiptoeing along garden fences, etc. By the time they've grown up enough to know just how close to get near the end of the guard dog's chain, they're already almost as big as a full-sized cat.

On nature programmes on National Geographic, you see baby elephants. However, elephants and humans are some of the exceptions among animals, being able to walk about with their young in public. This is possible because of the rarity of natural predators such as sabre-toothed tigers during the present (no)ice age. Pigeons, in contrast, have plenty of predators out to get them, and they keep their young out of harm's way.

If you're wondering how sure some of this stuff is, about the life-cycle of the pigeon, please bear in mind that not all pigeons are feral, wild, at large to live and breed in the urban environment. There are also fancy pigeons, racing pigeons, homing pigeons, etc, and these are bred by pigeon fanciers. Pigeon fanciers know well the life-cycle of the pigeon, as they have observed it themselves, and they scorn all this "you never see baby pigeons" stuff. If you want to look this kind of thing up, search for "squeakers". Yes, it's true, baby pigeons are known as "squeakers", because of the little squeaky sound they make before they can go "coo".

Pigeons aren't always the villains, even though they seem to have a flying rat reputation, and there may even be an element of envy, because even in the credit crunch, a pigeon can still put a deposit on a Porsche. Pigeons are sometimes the heroes, and some have even won medals. This isn't a cartoon like Dick Dastardly trying to shoot down a pigeon; it's war, during which pigeons were message carriers, able to evade enemy radar-jamming and shot-firing. A pigeon may not be as fast as e-mail, but at 40MPH it's faster than a horse, and it's up in the sky, and can navigate with precision using its own magnetic compass in its head.

Also, if you can stomach the fact that pork is from pigs, you may find it of interest that pigeons are served up in some very posh restaurants, by chefs with the highest of hats. Pigeon meat is known as "squab", and you can look that up too. Note that pigeon meat is not usually obtained by taking a gun into the city streets and taking a few pot-shots at the flying beasties, as people would look a bit upset about that, even if they were referring to pigeons as "flying rats" a few minutes earlier. Instead, squab (pigeon meat) is produced in pigeon farms (not exactly free range?) with an especially meaty variety of pigeon, something that's a notch closer to being like a Xmas turkey than the type of thing you see pecking around the streets. Squab farmers are also entirely aware of the life cycle of the pigeon, and they too would scoff if you said that there was no such thing as baby pigeons.

Nevertheless, it is a valid question: Why do you never see baby pigeons in the streets?

You Should ask such questions. If people didn't have such enquiring minds and didn't ask such interesting questions, the reality could get away with being even more shoddily made than it is currently. This would make The Matrix much easier to run, and those thingummies would be getting their 25000 BTUs without even having to try to make it convincing. So, make them work for it!

Talking of which, do you remember ever being a baby human?

Further odd thought-provoking stuff can be found on such pages as: Truths, Misconceptions, Advice, etc.

A few things have happened since the writing of this page. There have been some suspected sightings of baby pigeons. I have seen a pigeon which may have been "young" though not actually a Baby pigeon. However, there may be news from Toxic Drums on a possible sighting of baby pigeons in the wild. ("The Wild" for pigeons being the urban environment). There are also some pictures of pigeons at Perceptions site, but these all appear to be of the adult form.

Another pigeon page here is a Pigeon switching on a Streetlamp

Meanwhile, on the 25000 BTUs, there's a page about energy and power