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Rats with wings, or birds with heart?

Pigeons have one of the worst reputations in the world, commonly called “rats with wings.” The Municipal Code in Las Vegas refers to pigeons as “flying rats.” Other phrases like “public nuisance” and “pest” are thrown around casually, as though these animals are not important. With language like this used to describe pigeons for decades, it is no wonder that visitors and volunteers are shocked that we have over 50 adoptable pigeons here at Wild Friends.

Brianna Vlach spends time with an adoptable pigeon at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. Photo by Best Friends Animal Society.

You read that right. Adoptable pigeons. But why on Earth would anyone want to adopt a pigeon? Lots of reasons, actually! In as far as we understand animal intelligence, pigeons are one of the top 10 most intelligent animals on the planet. They have an incredible internal GPS that saved thousands of lives in World Wars I and II, with 32 pigeons being awarded the Dicken Medal in WWII for their service, an award specifically created to honor animals for valorous acts of service in wartime.

Pigeons are quiet; their coos about a hundred decibels softer than their exotic parrot counterparts. Their bite force is not anything to write home about, as they do not have the bone crushing strength of a macaw or cockatoo. And the best part about them? Pigeons are a domesticated species, so they are meant to be with us, just like our dogs.

The Mesopotamians domesticated pigeons over 5,000 years ago. When we see pigeons in cities like New York or Los Angeles, those are not wild pigeons. There are no wild pigeons in North America. Instead, those animals are feral pigeons; the same way we have feral dogs and cats. Changing that language is important in changing the way we view these animals, not as a nuisance, but as lost friends who are often in need of assistance.

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So how do these pigeons end up at the Wild Friends sanctuary? Most of the time we can only guess. Some of them come from feral flocks with injuries that prevent them from returning to their colony. Some of our white pigeons might have been released at a wedding. Most of our pigeons, though, come from the racing industry. Pigeon racing clubs span the globe, with birds racing hundreds of miles to find their way home. When these birds get lost or injured, they often go unclaimed as they are no longer valuable to the industry. If a pigeon with a leg band comes up to people, they are often a racer that is attempting to “self-rescue,” know they are not where they are supposed to be. Since these are domestic birds, many wildlife rehabilitators cannot legally assist, so what do you do if you a pigeon asks you for help?

Your first option is to simply keep the bird. Pigeons are primarily seed eaters, so a high-quality bird seed will be most of their diet. If you have one pigeon, you probably want to look at getting them a friend, as pigeons often do better with another bird buddy. Whether you’re interested in adopting a pet pigeon or four, you can check out our adoptable birds at adopt/adopt-our-sanctuary/ birds to find your new best feathered friends. Not in Kanab but still interested in adopting? You can check out Palomacy at to find a network of pigeon and dove friendly rescues across the United States.

For anyone interested in adopting a pet bird, pigeons are a fabulous option to consider. These sweet, smart, inquisitive birds will steal your heart before you know it.




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