Animals – especially wild ones – instinctively avoid showing signs of illness. This is because wild animals showing signs of illness or weakness draws unwanted attention from their predators.
They could also find themselves attacked by rivals.
Pigeons don’t “sit” trying to pose for cute pictures. The first thought that should go through your mind when you see a sitting pigeon is that it is unwell.
Reasons for Pigeons Sitting
The most probable reason for a pigeon to sit is that it is unwell. In a few unusual cases, such as when a pigeon has just had a bath, a healthy pigeon might also sit for a while, but this is really infrequent.
Pigeon is Sick or Injured
Indications from Behavior
By closely observing the behavior and appearance of the sitting pigeon, you ought to be able to spot symptoms of illness or signs of injury.
Pigeons have an instinct to fly away from humans and animals that approach them too closely. This behavior is a deeply ingrained survival instinct.
If you can go up to a sitting pigeon, it should trigger your concern.
Panting, Puffing, or Other Breathing Difficuly Signs
A sitting pigeon puffing, wheezing, or breathing through its open beak, may be sick.
The same is true for any sitting pigeon whose tail bobs whenever it takes a breath.
An Unsteady or Unusual Posture
When an animal rests in an unsteady position, it usually means that it’s sick. Healthy pigeons rest with their heads held up, squatting in an alert, vertical position.
On the other hand, sitting pigeons usually rest passively, often leaning to one side or the other. This is a very unusual posture for a pigeon, and you should take it as a sign that there’s something wrong with the bird.
Elevated or Drooping Wings
To compensate for their off-kilter balance, some sitting pigeons will raise their wings. Paradoxically, they might also let their wings droop to their sides.
Tip: Do not confuse drooping wings in young chicks with illness.
Chicks droop their wings because they haven’t yet learned how to tuck their wings in.
Note: Birds that have just had a bath or got misted by someone will also droop their wings while drying off.
In short, if you see a sitting pigeon that is neither a chick nor obviously quite wet, then you can rightly suspect that the pigeon is sick or injured.
This is especially true if the bird is sitting in a dejected manner (although that is a judgment call you will have to make for yourself.)
Roosting Somewhere Unexpected
Any pigeon that is roosting somewhere weird and unexpected is a strong candidate for being a sick bird.
‘Unusual place’ means any open space without much protection or shelter. Pigeons try to roost in safe areas such as in niches and cavities to avoid predators.
A pigeon sitting in an open space like a porch or patio is very likely quite ill.
Sitting with Eyes Half-closed
Half-closed or squinting eyes are common signs of illness in pigeons. Pigeons have to stay alert at all times to avoid becoming a meal for a passing predator.
A pigeon that appears exhausted and unable to keep its eyes fully open is probably unwell.
Steering Clear of Other Birds
Most animals innately hate weak companions.
A pigeon with a health issue will do its best to hide it from its companions, so they don’t attack it or shun it.
Head Tucked Under a Wing or Tilted to the Side
When sick, a pigeon will often tuck its head under its wing or tilt its head to one side or the other.
Tottering, or Actually Falling off its Perch Entirely
Pigeons should be able to balance on a perch, even on one leg, so a pigeon that is constantly tottering on its perch or even losing its balance may be injured or sick.
If it falls off its perch entirely, the condition is likely to be extremely serious for it.
Sleeping for an Unusually Long Time (Pet Pigeon)
Common to both humans and animals, an unusual amount of sleep is a strong indicator of ill health.
If you have a pet pigeon and notice it sleeping during the day, your pigeon is probably sick.
A Change in Personality (Pet Pigeon)
Suppose there’s a sudden change in your pet pigeon’s behavior (for example, from being friendly to being aggressive, or from being exuberant to being listless).
In that case, the pigeon is very likely ill.
Changes in Eating and Drinking Habits (Pet Pigeon)
If your pet pigeon is refusing food, that is a clear indicator that something is probably wrong.
Throwing Up or Vomiting
Regurgitation is not part of pigeons’ courtship rituals.
If a sitting pigeon is vomiting, it is unwell.
How to Help a Sitting Pigeon if it is Ill
Try to avoid approaching or handling wild pigeons. If you do, the pigeon may feel threatened, and it might display aggression.
Furthermore, wild pigeons aren’t used to being handled by humans. It would be a very stressful event for them.
Be extremely careful when handling a pigeon that is injured or sick. If the pigeon is small enough to fit into your hand, place your hand on it so that its head is between your fore and middle fingers.
If you are dealing with a large pigeon, use both hands to hold its wings against its body. Don’t forget that pigeons are quite fragile, so don’t do more harm than good when handling these creatures.
You should not feed or attempt to feed a wild bird that is sick. Place it in a warm, dry, and comfortable place.
If you have any questions, consult wildlife rehabilitation specialists or a licensed veterinarian. In the US, you can contact the USDA (US Department of Agriculture ) Veterinary Services or the State Veterinarian or agricultural extension agent.
Frequently Asked Questions about Reasons for Pigeons Sitting
What does it mean if a pigeon is splay-legged?
It usually means that the pigeon has a viral infection. The viral infection is usually fatal for the pigeon.
How do I look after a sitting pigeon if it is sick or injured?
First, line a cardboard box with a cloth or paper towels. Then, gently place the pigeon into the box. Put a towel over the box and place it somewhere quiet and dark. Place a glass of warm water, or another heat source, next to the sick pigeon. Lastly, contact a wild-bird rehabilitator or a local veterinarian.
Afterword: Reasons for Pigeons Sitting
The most likely reason for a pigeon to sit is that it is sick. There will be other indicators such as drooping wings, lack of motion, or extreme drowsiness.
Handling the ailing bird with extreme care and providing it with care and attention, you may be able to help nurse the pigeon back to health.