How do you calm a pigeon?

Pigeons are incredibly common birds, especially in urban areas. You can find flocks of pigeons congregating in parks and city squares, perching on ledges and signs, or even landing on the ground to peck around for food. While pigeons are very accustomed to being around people, they can still become startled or stressed in busy environments. If you need to handle or interact with a pigeon, it’s important to know how to keep it calm.

Why do pigeons get stressed?

Pigeons become stressed for the same reasons most animals do. Loud noises, quick movements, and unfamiliar handling can trigger fear and an instinct to escape. Pigeons in urban areas deal with a fair amount of stress since there is so much human activity going on around them all the time. When approaching or handling a pigeon, move slowly and speak softly to avoid adding more stress.

Loud noises

Pigeons are very sensitive to loud or sudden sounds. Noises like construction, traffic, crowds, or loud machinery can put pigeons on high alert. The loud sounds hurt their ears and make them feel threatened, as they cannot detect where the sound is coming from. Pigeons may frantically fly away or flutter their wings in response to a startling noise.

Quick movements

Quick gestures or movements near a pigeon will cause it to become nervous and uneasy. When pigeons feel threatened, their first instinct is to get away from the danger as fast as possible. Dashing toward a pigeon or making large hand motions will likely cause it to take off in flight. Move slowly and deliberately when interacting with pigeons.

Unfamiliar handling

Pigeons are not accustomed to being touched or held by humans. If you attempt to grab or restrain a pigeon, it will resist and try to break free of your hold. Always handle pigeons gently, properly supporting their body weight. Grasping or excessive restraint will cause significant stress.

How to approach a pigeon calmly

When you need to interact with a pigeon, use care and caution during your approach. Moving slowly, speaking softly, and avoiding direct eye contact will help keep the bird relaxed. Here are some tips for a calm approach:

Move slowly

Make slow, deliberate movements when moving toward a pigeon. Sudden or rushed movement will startle them, while a gradual approach helps them adjust. Take your time stepping closer, and stop if they show signs of unease.

Speak softly

Talking loudly or making sharp sounds can scare pigeons away. Hum or mutter gently under your breath as you approach. This calms them and helps cover distracting background noise.

Don’t stare

Looking a pigeon directly in the eyes can seem aggressive or intimidating. Avert your eyes slightly to the side rather than maintaining direct eye contact. Your focus can still be on the bird but will appear non-threatening.

Offer treats

Bringing along small food items like birdseed or crumbs can encourage a pigeon to stay put and associate you with rewards. Scatter treats on the ground near the pigeon to occupy it during handling.

How to properly pick up and hold a pigeon

Pigeons require special handling techniques to keep their delicate bones and wings safe. Here is the proper process for lifting and restraining a pigeon:

Support the chest

Place one hand gently underneath the pigeon’s chest and abdomen. Let the feet stand on your fingers or hand. Supporting the chest helps prevent injury.

Restrain the wings

Use your other hand to carefully gather and secure the wings. Do not squeeze or crush them against the body. Light restraint helps prevent flapping.

Lift evenly

Once you are supporting the chest and wings, lift the pigeon directly upwards in one smooth motion. No tilting or angular lifting.

Limit restraint time

Hold pigeons for only as long as absolutely necessary. Prolonged restraint is highly stressful. Release the pigeon promptly once handled.

Check for injuries

Look for any signs of injury after releasing the pigeon, like ruffled feathers or swollen joints. Delayed effects of handling stress may appear later.

How to calm a pigeon in your hand

Once you have successfully caught and lifted a pigeon, use these tips to keep it calm while handled:

Avoid tight squeezing

Hold the pigeon securely but without excessive pressure. Crushing its body will cause pain and panic.

Provide support

Keep supporting the chest and abdomen from underneath. Let the pigeon stand comfortably without dangling.

Reduce noise

Move to a quiet location without loud background noise. This removes external stressors.

Use light stroking

Gently stroke the pigeon’s head, back, and chest with your thumb or finger. Soothing touches provide comfort.

Limit restraint time

Continue to handle the pigeon for only as long as needed before release. The less time in hand, the calmer it will be.

Calming a stressed pigeon after handling

Pigeons may remain agitated for a while after being handled due to stress and fear. Use these post-restraint tips to help them calm down:

Give space

After releasing the pigeon, step several feet back to give it recovery room. Don’t tower over it or reach toward it.

Let them ground

The pigeon will likely stay low, close to the ground initially. This feels safer. Allow it time to ground before expecting flight.

Offer food treats

Sprinkle birdseed or other snacks near the pigeon to help regain calm. Associating you with treats reduces wariness.

Monitor from afar

Quietly observe the pigeon’s behavior from a distance as it recovers. Watch for signs of ongoing distress or injury.

Limit noise

Give the pigeon a peaceful, quiet space to wind down in without loud machinery, crowds, or other disturbances.

Understanding pigeon body language

Pigeons communicate through body language when stressed, scared, injured or feeling threatened. Recognizing these signals allows you to respond appropriately:

Fluffed feathers

Ruffled, puffed up feathers indicates fear, anxiety, or feeling unwell. Give them more space.

Low crouching

Crouching close to the ground signals discomfort or submission. Stop approaching and let them relax.

Wing flapping

Frantic flapping or fluttering means a stressed, nervous pigeon. Back away and eliminate threats.


Lunging with its beak warns that the pigeon feels threatened. Cease contact to avoid getting pecked.


A frozen, tense posture is an attempt to go unnoticed. Leave the area so they can move freely.


Favoring one leg indicates injury or pain. Provide soft perches and monitor for deterioration.

Preventing pigeon stress

You can take proactive steps to minimize fear and anxiety when pigeons are near. This reduces the need for contact and handling:

Avoid chasing

Never run or dash toward pigeons. Stay calm and let them move at their own pace.

Provide food/water

Having reliable access to seed, grains, and fresh water keeps pigeons relaxed in an area.

Add perches

Place ledges, balances, or perches pigeons can easily land and grip without human contact.

Limit disturbances

Request that nearby machinery like jackhammers or generators be shut down temporarily.

Minimize crowds

Ask onlookers or crowds to disperse and give pigeons ample space.

When to seek help for an injured or unwell pigeon

While you can take steps to calm stressed pigeons, seek professional advice immediately if you observe:


Blood or open gashes need veterinary treatment to avoid infection and additional blood loss.

Broken bones

Fractured or disjointed bones should be x-rayed and set by an avian veterinarian.

Crushed/damaged beak

A beak injury impedes eating and preening. Proper realignment is critical.

Eye discharge

Eye infections need medication. Cloudy, red, or watery eyes signal illness.

Loss of balance

Disorientation, stumbling, or inability to perch requires immediate medical intervention.

Labored breathing

Beak open, chest heaving indicates respiratory distress. Urgent treatment is vital.

Special techniques for calming injured/unwell pigeons

When handling sick or hurt pigeons prior to veterinary arrival, use these comforting measures:

Extremely slow movements

Sudden movement risks further injury. Take exceptional care approaching and lifting.

Minimize direct restraint

Avoid squeezing the body. Use hands or towel to support vs. restrain.

Reduce sound/light

Lower noise and dim lights to avoid overstimulation.

Keep calm and reassuring

Speak and act gently to minimize stress. Pigeon can sense human worry.

Provide non-fabric padding

Line restraint box/carrier with soft paper towels to prevent fabric fibers entering wounds.

Don’t force food/water

Injured birds often avoid eating. Hydration takes priority over feeding.

Common pigeon injuries and illnesses

Knowing the most prevalent medical issues helps identify when a pigeon requires treatment:

Bone fractures

Collisions cause broken wings, legs, and sternum bones. Support and immobilize.


Building collisions and fights lead to cuts needing disinfecting and sutures.


Bacteria causes red, swollen, crusty eyes. Antibiotic drops are required.


Respiratory bacterial disease causes wheezing and lethargy. Bring to a vet immediately.


Fungal infection often of the trachea. Medication clears fungus from the system.

Avian pox

Contagious viral disease with wart-like lesions. Isolate affected birds.


Inflammation of digestive system makes eating painful. Soft food aids recovery.


Bacterial or fungal infection of footpads causes swelling. Requires topical treatment.

Egg binding

Difficulty laying eggs strains the reproductive system. May require calcium or prostaglandins.


Pigeons are sensitive, easily stressed birds when confronted by humans and urban settings. Approaching pigeons slowly and calmly, limiting noise, and using proper handling technique helps prevent undue anxiety and keeps them relaxed when interaction is necessary. If a pigeon appears or feels unwell, or sustains injury, seek professional veterinary care as soon as possible to provide comfort, treatment, and pain relief. With some basic knowledge about pigeon behavior and care, you can help protect the welfare of these very common city-dwelling birds.

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