Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Photo of the day: WHY DO YOU NEVER SEE BABY PIGEONS?

PIGEON NEST collage

THE HAPPY SPRING THAT ALMOST WAS: A popular question in New York and around the world is ‘why don’t you ever see baby pigeons?’.  You do see them, but you don’t notice.

Their beaks are slightly flatter and wider than an adult’s and for the first week or two after leaving the nest, the feathers around the base of the beak are bristly and lay back along the face. You may occasionally see one begging a parent to feed it – it will normally run after the parent, quivering its wings and squeaking – hence the name for a very young pigeon, just feathered – a squeaker.

During their first week of life baby pigeons are fed a high-fat, high-protein diet of crop milk produced by both parents. The leading cause of death among baby pigeons is temperature related. Without warmth, the body loses too much energy and the little squab simply can’t recover from his fight to enter the world. They grow very fast. Pigeons don’t fledge (leave the nest) until they are almost adult-sized

In the case of domestic/feral pigeons, they walk well at about 18 days of age and start exercising their wings about a week later. But because they have been regularly fed by the adults and haven’t done much exercising, the babies are often bigger than their parents by the time they start to fly, which is on average of only 30 to 32 days after hatching. Many species of pigeons will rear their young to independence in under 3 weeks.

Sadly they are also not very adept nest builders nor are they too attentive to the egg. That is what happened to my pigeon couple “Fred and Ethel” living under and on top of my air conditioner. Joyously after days of endless coo-ing I noticed a nest being built on top of my air conditioner and soon an egg appeared. I dropped extra twigs down so they could have the best nest in town. I put out bread crumbs and my usual water for them. They both took turns sitting on the egg but would stay away for disturbingly long periods, up to 20 minutes, leaving the egg unattended. My concern was the dropping temperatures to the mid 40’sF. But last night I went to bed and saw mom/’Ethel’ pigeon contently sitting in her nest, cooing away.

This morning I awoke to see no one attending the nest. I rushed to the window – the egg was gone. Hopefully they will take PPC = P.igeon P.arenting C.lasses and the next time will be more successful. Here’s hoping!

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