Pigeons are one of the few species of wild animal with which town and city dwellers have regular contact, so they are popular with a lot of people.
Although it is widely believed that pigeons carry and spread diseases to people, there is very little evidence that pigeons jeopardise human health. (3) Pigeon lung disease is an allergic reaction which affects some people who have prolonged contact with pigeons in confined places. It is easily treated if diagnosed early and can be avoided by wearing a mask if in contact with pigeons in a dusty environment.
“It is absolute nonsense … to suggest that pigeons present a health hazard and presumably need eliminating for the well-being of the nation’s health.” – David A Palmer, BVSc, MRCVS
“There is no evidence to show that they spread disease.” – Mike Everett, RSPB
Meet Mark and Chichi
Kevin Mercieca has met up with Mark Scerri and his pet pigeon Chichi to find out more about this amazing relationship that they developed.
Characteristics of pigeons
The term “pigeon” is popularly used to refer to several birds belonging to the family Columbidae, which encompasses over 300 species. Nowadays, there are more than 150 breeds of pigeons that have colonised all continents except the Antarctic. The pigeons that we find the most easily pacing the streets of our cities turn out to be also the most popular pigeon as a pet, we know them under the name of Pigeon biset ( Columba livia ). Let us never forget that a while ago, pigeons were as useful as the internet is these days, thanks to their incredible sense of direction and their super-intelligence, they were the messengers of yesteryear.
Pigeons make great pets
Pet lovers are embracing the joys of adopting dogs and cats from shelters in great numbers, but few people realise that birds also need to be rescued. Pigeons belong to a group of animals that can generate diametrically opposite emotions in humans. While some people regard them as a veritable urban vermin, many admire them for their beauty and remarkable cognitive abilities.
Pigeons breeding as a pet has not lost its supremacy after years of history and tradition , yet they are smart, easy going birds that quickly learn household routines. They do fine in homes with other pets and can live peacefully and unafraid with dogs and cats as long as they are kept safe. These birds are very emotional and do need a friend, whether another bird or a human with whom they can spend the day.
Pigeons excel at the leisure arts and spend their time bathing, preening, lounging in the sun, foraging for favourite seeds, watching the sky, napping, showing off and courting. Every four to five weeks, mated couples will lay a pair of eggs (which need to be replaced with fake eggs for pigeon birth control) and take turns sitting on them. Pigeons are extremely devoted to their family and mate for life. They require fresh food and water and a quick clean daily and a thorough aviary cleaning weekly.
Despite the prejudices and myths surrounding these birds, we now know that pigeons are intelligent birds, sociable, and more than clean. In fact, poor hygiene of pigeons or their environment causes them to fall ill more than easily. For this reason, to adopt a domestic pigeon it will be essential to offer preventive care so that you can enjoy a healthy pigeon.
- Regulation of the Street Pigeon in Basel by Daniel Haag-Wackernagel. Article published in Wildlife Society Bulletin, 1995.
- From an article by D. Haag published in Swiss journal, Ornithol Beobachter. No. 87, pg 147-151.
- Pigeon Lung Disease Fatality and Health by David A Palmer B. V. Sc. MRCVS.