Baby Pigeons

helpwildlife.co.uk provides a directory of around 400 wildlife rescues in the UK who can help with wildlife casualties

 

Although also often ‘garden birds’ the needs of baby pigeon species (Feral Pigeons, Stock Doves, Collared Doves and Woodpigeons) are quite different to those of passerines (most garden birds). Not many people see (or know they have seen) a baby pigeon and they’re often mistaken for ducklings because of their relatively large beaks.

It’s also worth clarifying that, contrary to popular belief, pigeons are not ‘classed as vermin’ and there are no legal issues preventing you from helping them. They also have broadly similar legal protection to other birds meaning it’s an offence to disturb their nests or to cause or fail to prevent their suffering.

 

When to Help

Tick If the bird has been caught by a cat.
Any bird which has been bitten by a cat, regardless of its age, will need rescue and treatment. There are bacteria on cat’s teeth which will pass into the bird’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Without antibiotics within a few hours of the attack the bird may develop fatal septicaemia. Urgent action is required here.
Tick If the bird is obviously injured
If you can see a wound, or a wing or leg is obviously damaged then the bird needs help. Survival in the wild is unlikely with an injury.
Tick If the bird is out if its nest and unable to fly
A baby pigeon out of the nest will need help in most circumstances. The parents will only feed the baby if it is in the nest. Unlike most other species, they will not find and continue to care for it if you place it in a bush or tree. Basically, if the baby doesn’t or cannot fly away from you, it needs help.
Tick If both parents have been killed.
Call a wildlife rescue ASAP

Capture

Baby pigeons have soft beaks so they can’t hurt you, but you can pick the bird up with gloves or a light towel if you prefer. Any small bird needs to be handled with care. Their bones are very delicate, and it would be easy to injure them by handling them roughly. They will usually feel more secure if you hold their wings against their body and support their feet.

Containment

Place the bird in something like a shoebox or ice cream tub lined with tissues. If you need a lid to keep the bird contained, don’t forget to provide plenty of air holes. Place the box somewhere warm and quiet and keep children and pets away.

Care

Any baby bird which needs rescuing should be taken to a wildlife rescue as soon as possible, ideally within an hour. If not yet fully feathered, the baby may need supplementary heat. An airing cupboard may suffice for partially feathered birds but, for younger ones, put a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel at one end of the box, either inside, underneath or next to the box, ensuring the bird can get away from the heat if it wants to. As a rule, the baby should feel warm to the touch. If it feels cold it needs more heat and if it is panting or feels very hot, it may need less.
Baby pigeons need feeding less often than many other species but getting prompt help is still important. Pigeons feed their babies by regurgitating partially digested food into their mouths which isn’t something you can easily replicate yourselves so it’s best not to try and feed them. Never attempt to force feed water to a bird as it is very easy to drown them and never offer cow’s milk, worms or alcohol.

NB – this advice is designed to cover the first hour or so. If you are not able to get the bird to a wildlife rescue within this time, please at least speak to someone by phone for further advice about care beyond this period. If you want to care for the casualty yourself rather than taking it to a rescue, please read the information here.

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