Baby pigeons are called ‘squabs,’ and pigeons will remain squabs until they are 4 weeks old.
Baby pigeons are also known as ‘squeakers’ but squab is the correct name for them.
At 4 weeks old they will be almost as big as a fully grown pigeon and will be ready to take their first flight. At which time they will go from being a squab to a fledgling.
Do Pigeons Abandon Their Babies?
Pigeons are highly attentive parents, so it is very unusual for them to leave their babies alone.
While one parent is off feeding, one other parent should be present until the nestlings become fledglings and they can leave the nest.
The main reason why pigeon parents will abandon their babies is if they have been scared off.
This could be by common predators such as cats and falcons, or by a lot of human activity. A lot of foot traffic, and loud voices may scare the pigeons away.
What Should I Do If I Find A Baby Pigeon That Has Been Abandoned?
First, it’s important to establish if you’ve found a fledgling pigeon or a nestling.
Nestlings are very young baby pigeons with little feathers, while fledglings are a month or so old and will have most or all of their feathers. However, their coats will be fluffy and soft.
Nestlings will not survive very long without their parents. If you find a baby pigeon that has been abandoned in its nest, just watch the nest first.
While it is unusual for both parents to leave the nest at the same time, if they felt they were in imminent danger they would have had no choice but to leave.
Keep an eye on the nest for a few hours and if neither parent returns it’s likely the baby has been abandoned. There are a few things you can do.
You can hand rear the nestling yourself. This requires a lot of work, but is so rewarding! Or you can take the nestling to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.
If you’re in the US, you can use the Humane Society Directory to find the nearest center to you, or if you’re based in the UK you can contact the R.S.P.C.A. to locate a local center.
The main reasons you will find a nestling abandoned outside of the nest are that they have accidentally fallen from the nest, or that they have been pushed out by their parents.
Unfortunately, parents may do this if the nestling is weak or ill so they can concentrate on caring for the healthy nestlings.
If this is the case you can return the nestling to the nest. But you should only do this if you know which nest the nestling fell from and the nestling is strong and healthy.
After all, if it is ill or weak it was most likely pushed out and if returned to the nest will only be pushed out again.
Or again, you can hand rear the nestling or take it to your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.
If you find a pigeon fledgling on its own you will most likely not need to do anything, as it may just be exploring its surroundings and finding its wings, and its parents will probably be close by.
Just watch them from a distance, being careful not to disturb them or scare them away.
Do not pick up the fledgling and try to return it to its nest as it will disturb the other birds. The only time you should handle a fledgling is if its life is in danger from a predator or vehicle.
If this is the case then move the fledgling to a sheltered spot that is close enough to where they were that they can find their way back to its parents.
Do Pigeons Sometimes Kill Their Babies?
Unfortunately, some parents will kill their baby pigeons, and this behaviour is known as scalping. Why pigeons do this isn’t clear, and since pigeons are very attentive parents, scalping is rare.
But driving out or even killing ill or malformed newborns is common amongst many animal species.
The mother will sense that something is not quite right with their newborn and will kill it so they can focus all their resources into the healthier newborns.
If this is the case within a family of pigeons, the ill or weak chick may be killed by scalping, which basically involves pecking the chick to death.
As pigeons can be territorial, sometimes baby pigeons who wander into the wrong nest will be killed by the parents of that nest.
If you keep pigeons and they are breeding, it’s recommended to have nest sites that have clear demarcation and are constructed in a way that young or baby pigeons cannot easily leave the nest.