In fall when many bird species migrate before the freezing weather arrives, remarkably though plenty of other birds stay which includes pigeons. But even with winter in full swing, when little to no other birds are there, you will still see pigeons out there, tucking their head and feet and crouching on a branch of a tree. But is it enough to stay warm and survive the harsh winter season? Don’t pigeons get cold? Are they warm-blooded? Here are all the answers to your questions.
The Short Answer…
Pigeons get cold just like we do. Pigeons can tolerate freezing temperatures of – 40 degrees of cold and use different strategies to keep warm in the cold but they are not bulletproof against the harshness of the winter and can get cold in the blistering weather.
Like us, pigeons are warm-blooded which means they produce heat and try to maintain it with different strategies like seeking and nesting in a warm place, getting together to keeping warm, minimizing their exposure to the surface by tucking up their head and feet down, and fluff out their feathers together.
Not only that, pigeons do have lots of smart ways of getting through. Here is the complete list of how do they do it.
From Europe to North Africa to Asia, pigeons are almost in every continent where people live except Antarctica and the high Arctic. Pigeons are a common sight across the cities and can be found in every season even in the coldest temperatures when no other animals are out there. But how they do it? Do pigeons get cold? Are they warm-blooded? Here are the interesting and fascinating ways pigeons get by.
Do Pigeons Get Cold?
Yes, they do get cold and react just like we do. Pigeons do have the ability to fight the cold but to some extent. And if it’s overwhelmingly cold, pigeons will definitely get cold. Pigeons are good at dealing with cold and use many adaptations to fight cold most commonly fluffing their feathers. They can endure up to a super freezing dip of – 40 degrees Fahrenheit and still remain healthy. But if the weather is brutally cold, pigeons could obviously get cold.
Pigeons living in cities are less likely to catch a cold. Not only because cities and towns are somehow warmer than the rural and wild areas, but because pigeons have some food in the cities and as well as warm places to stay in. Urban areas are warmer because of carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions and people using a heating system. This generated heat increases the temperature of the cities that helps pigeons and other birds endure cold.
In the wild, pigeons rush into the shrubs, tree trunks, and cavity, crevices, thick vegetation, and trees to shield from cold. And also lives together at night when the temperatures are at the lowest. But that’s not the only way pigeons use to produce and keep warm. They use to survive from getting cold through various means like adaptation, blood flow, and metabolic activity, just like how other birds survive.
Here’s a good video, not of how pigeons get along with colds but birds.
How Do Pigeons Survive In The Winter?
There are many physical and behavioral adaptations which pigeons use to fight with cold. Here are they.
Minimizing Their Exposure
In addition to seeking out shelter in a warm place, pigeons reduce their exposure to the surface area in the winter by tucking their head and feet, sticking their feathers, and crouching for keeping their body warm like sitting on their eggs. They also gather, make crowds, and live in flocks to share warmth at night.
One great adaptation pigeons have to keep their core body temperature warm is to fluff out their feathers while making sounds. The body feathers of pigeons are like a jacket which helps a lot in keeping warm.
For keeping warm, pigeons are sticking up their feathers which offers them much insulation that keeps them warm. But that isn’t the only thing that makes them appear more plumber. Another contributing factor is a behavioral adaptation called fluffing. To add more insulation, they are fluffing out their feathers to create their tiny pockets of air between their skin and feathers. The more trapped air, the warmer the bird.
When food is in abundance in fall, it’s common to see pigeons eating seeds, fruits and gaining weight, and building calories which insulates them and provides more energy to produce body heat. Even in the winter, birds will eat more food than what they typically do that will provide more energy to beat cold. And that’s one of the reason why birds appear suddenly.
Over the winter season, birds look twice as big as they are. In fact, many people think they have fattened up and while they do also fatten up over fall for winter, the fat the put on is really not noticeable certainly not to the extent that they look when fluffing out their feathers.
While there are no insects and a lot of fruits and seeds, some birds store foods in the fall for winter when food scarce, pigeons do not seem to do it.
Minimize Body Temperature & Metabolic Rate
When it’s exceptionally cold, birds will shiver to raise their metabolic rate to generate more body heat. And in such cold nights, they even reduce their overall body temperature anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees. The smaller the difference in temperature between the bird and its environment, the lower the rate of heat loss. That’s a clever adaptation.
Hyperthermia & Torpor (Similar to Hibernation)
On sunny days, pigeons will often reap the sun’s warmth by positing their fronts to it allowing the rays to heat their skin and feathers. This helps conserve their own energy because their body doesn’t need to work hard to generate heat to keep them warm since they sun is doing it for them.
At night, when the temperature dips lower, pigeons come and roost together in a small tight spot to share body heat and protect from cold. When it’s really cold even snow and pigeons struggle to find enough food to meet the energy demands of winter, pigeons will gorge during the day to build energy reserves for the cold night ahead. But when there isn’t enough food so to get through the tough nights, and conserve vital energy, pigeons will use nocturnal hyperthermia which means lowering their body temperature and reducing their metabolic rate.
Other pigeons species like morning doves and owls that sleep facedown use torpor which is basically slowing down the functions of the body to conserve heat and energy, just like hibernation.
Eat A lot
Another trick they have under their sleeve is eat a lot on those short days of winter. Much more than they do in summer. Eating extra food allows them to accumulate some fat before nightfall enough to sustain them over the cold night.
But if its really cold, regardless of being sheltered from the elements and dropping their core temperature, they may have to do something else and that is shivering which helps to increase heat production. Some cold nights they will shiver all night burning up their fat reserves in order to survive repeating this process each day until warmer days arrive.
But What about Their Legs and Feet? Do Their Feet Feel Cold?
Yes, they do, on purpose in fact.
There are some species of pigeons which have feathers on their feet but not all the pigeons have feathers on their feet and still seem to do okay. That’s because most pigeons have special scales covering their legs and feet which isn’t a living tissue which minimizes heat loss. Pigeons feet are mostly bones and tendons which means that unlike us they have a limited supply of nerves blood vessels or muscles to freeze.
But all of these doesn’t mean that they don’t ever feel the effects. It’s just that it takes more than it would for us and when that happens, pigeons have a solution and that is tucking their feet either by standing on one foot or by or squatting to cover both the legs at the same time. Usually, when you see pigeons doing this, it means that they are uncomfortably cold.
In addition to their specialized scales on their legs and tucking their feet, a clever adaptation where they regulate their foot temperature near the freezing point. The temperature of the core is not that cold however and if a pigeon were to try to regulate the temperature of their feet in winter to the same level as their core it would lose heat extremely quick and thus would be energetically costly. As a result, they cool their feet down near to the freezing point but not below freezing. This is by constricting blood flow to their extremities thus reducing heat loss without risking frostbite.
What Do Pigeons Eat in Cold?
While pigeons would eat a lot more in the winter than summer, it’s hard to find grains, seeds especially insects (which they love the most) when everything is snow-covered, or in their nest. But they aren’t impossible to find though.
Pigeons have very good eyesight and memory and are great at finding insects and knows where to find them. Although pigeons are more vegetarian, they can switch their diet according to the situation. Particularly, they eats whatever they get, just like raccoons.
As a result, pigeons eat seeds, grains, rice (Find out do pigeons explode eating rice), nuts, fruits and insects from the bark of the trees.
Do Pigeons Migrate For Surviving Cold?
No, pigeons do not migrate. While birds migration happens every year when winter is near, pigeons stay at the same place and finds a warm place to place to live. In fact, pigeons are so good at surviving cold that doesn’t necessarily require them to move out of their vicinity. Just like raccoons, pigeons are adaptable critters and live wherever they live. And wherever you take them with, they will adapt and live in for their lifetime, just like they mate.
While most birds migrate primarily for food, pigeons thrive on human food leftovers and don’t essentially run out of food even though they don’t store food for winter like squirrels do. But it’s not just our leftovers they are noshing on, people also feed them. And with good eyesight and sharp memory, they remember and know where to find the food especially insects when insects are in winter sleep which makes it so easy for pigeons to feed on.
So with enough food, pigeons can survive pretty well and also feed their young by producing crop-milk which means they doesn’t need to migrate like other birds do.
Are Pigeons Warm-Blooded? What is The Body Temperature of A Pigeon?
Like us, crows and pigeons are warm-blooded which means their bodies produce heat and maintain a certain temperature. A pigeon’s body temperature is around 36.2 C-42.0? C 97.2. To produce and maintain the body temperature, they use different strategies like we do. But they can tolerate freezing weather way more than we can and keep their whole body warm using many different tactics.
How Do Birds Don’t Get Wet When Snow or Rain?
Birds have a preen band called the Europa Geo Gland which secretes oil that birds used to coat their feathers when preening. This oil helps to waterproof their feathers leaving them dry and if you’ve ever gotten wet while out on a winter’s day then you know how important it is to stay dry. So feathers provide insulation and preen oil waterproofs their features and they have the ability to fluff up that provides great insulation.
How Cold is Too Cold For Pigeons?
Pigeons are more tolerant than most of birds and can endure at a super freezing point of – 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But they are not numb to cold and can get cold reacting similar to us and even die depending on the harshness of the situation. While there’s no proven study which shows the particular freezing degree which is too cold for them, but its proven to say that they can endure way more than we do but to some point. That means extremely cold weather is probably too cold for them as well.
Can Pigeons Die From Cold?
Yes, but not as easy as we do. Though pigeons are extremely adaptable and would fit in most weather and envoirments, they can get cold and freeze to death but would take more than us. Meaning they can survive in a very harsh condition and adapt to it, but not in the extremely unbearable cold conditions which exceed our tolerance limit and most of the other animals. However, if you provide food, water, and shelter, and warmth to pigeons, they won’t likely be the case.
How to Help Pigeons Beat Cold?
- To help pigeons and all the other birds from the harsh weather, place a bird feeder and pour in some good nutritional food that works for all the birds including pigeons. You can feed pigeons and other birds seeds, corn, grains, rice (Find out do pigeons explode eating rice), nuts, fruits, or a mixture of all.
- Place a birdbath with warm water around the bird feeder or somewhere in the yard. In winter, change the water with a warm water four to five times a day.
- If you’re keeping pigeons yourself, in addition to feeding, provide a heat source for them around their cage (NOT inside!) by placing a heater or heat lamps near the cage and heat pads or soft cloth under their feet.
- Cover their home with warm stuff especially at night when the temperature highly drops.
Although migration may seem to be the better solution, the cost of migration is more than sticking and adapting. If you have feeders put up with black oil sunflower seeds, you can safely say that you’re making their winter days a little easier.
We provide such relief for them over winter just by putting grains, rice, wheat, and black oil sunflower seed feeders up in our yards. Keep the feeders and area around clean and sanitize feeders at least once every week or two depending on activity. If you see sick birds, take down feeders all together to limit the spreading of the disease.