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15 Amazing Interesting Pigeon Facts

Think you know this misunderstood animal? Think again! Check out these very cooooo-l pigeon facts to find out more about our fine feathered friends!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:ย  April 16th 2022

We all know pigeons. You usually see them in huge crowds in cities, eating bits of bread and erm... going to the toilet on people's cars. But surely there's more to them than that? You bet there is! Pigeons are actually amazing animals and it's clear that we've massively underestimated them.

Are you ready to discover the truth about pigeons? Let's go!

1. Pigeons are actually really smart!

They might have a reputation for being a bit...well, stupid - but that's totally wrong! Pigeons are actually very intelligent animals with complex behaviours and relationships with other pigeons. But how smart are they?

2. They can recognise themselves in a mirror

When pigeons look in a mirror, they know it's not another pigeon. They can also recognise themselves in videos - key tests of animal intelligence. Even animals we think of as being pretty smart (like dogs and pigs) often fail these tests.

3. They can learn human words

One amazing study into pigeons showed that with training, pigeons can tell the difference between human words and made-up gibberish ones. This means they can recognise patterns and use them to get rewards - in this case some delicious snacks. Some of the pigeons in the study memorised 50 words! But don't worry, you're unlikely to see a pigeon on Countdown any time soon!

4. Pigeons are amazing navigators

Like many birds, pigeons are really incredible at finding their way around. Scientists think they have an in-built magnetic compass that allows them to see where they need to go (just like a GPS) and they can follow our road system too. They've even been seen turning at junctions!

5. So what's that birdbrain thing about then?

In fact, birds are generally pretty smart, so birdbrain shouldn't be an insult. Some crows are actually as smart as a 7 year old child! You see, birds might have small brains, but it's a bit of a myth that intelligence is connected to brain size. If it was, whales would be about a hundred times smarter than us!

6. Pigeons are very sociable!

They always hang around in large groups of 20-30 pigeons, and have complicated relationships with each other. As well as hunting down bits of bread, they seem to play with each other and have some sort of social life.

7. They're surprisingly romantic

Pigeons are real love-birds! They mate for life and raise their offspring like a team, taking turns to get food and look after the nest. Both male and female pigeons even secrete a kind of nutritious goo from inside their throats that they feed to their babies. Gross, but kind of cute still.

8. They have great hearing

Pigeons can hear frequencies much lower than we can, so they can hear rumbles and storms approaching that we simply wouldn't notice. We still don't know what evolutionary advantage this gives them - but it must do something. That's just how evolution works!

9. They get a bad rap

Pigeons are very misunderstood animals. Many people believe they spread disease for instance - but there's is actually very little evidence for this. In fact, pigeons are very clean animals and spend a lot of time grooming!

10. Pigeon poo used to be very valuable

Pigeon poo is full of nitrogen and other hemicals that plants need to grow big and strong - and because of this it used be very valuable in the 19th Century. In fat, of all the bird poo fertilisers, pigeon poo was the most highly prized. So now you know!

11. Pigeons can fly 100mph!

Well, almost! The fastest a pigeon has ever been measured to fly is 92.5 mph. So still pretty fast!

12. They've lived with us for a long time

Pigeons have lived alongside humans for at least 3000 years - we know this beause there are pigeons depicted in ancient Mesopotamian art (present day Iraq). They probably liked bread then, too!

13. Pigeons are special to Sikhs

People of the Sikh religion sometimes feed pigeons for spiritual reasons. It's done to honour Guru Gobind Singh, a high priest who was famously friendly to the animals.

14. Pigeons were used a lot in WW1

Because communications were so bad in those days, messenger pigeons were used by both sides to send and receive important messages. In fact, they could have saved countless lives! Yep, it would have been a very different war without this pigeon-based technology.

15. We should treat them with more respect!

As you can see, pigeons are actually amazing animals that deserve more respect than we give them! Us humans have a bad habit of looking down on other animals, and pigeons just go to show that you don't need to go on Safari to see amazing animals - there are some right there on your doorstep. Literally!