What should pigeons not eat?

Pigeons are resilient birds that can adapt to urban environments and eat a wide variety of foods. However, there are some foods that should be avoided to keep pigeons healthy.


Bread is a very common food that people feed to pigeons. However, bread provides little nutritional value. Pigeons that fill up on empty calories from bread may become malnourished over time. Bread expands in the pigeon’s crop, leaving less room for more nutritious foods. Over time, a diet heavy in bread can lead to poor muscle tone and angel wing, a condition where the last joint of the wing angles away from the body and renders the bird unable to fly. Pigeons rely on flight to find food and evade predators, so angel wing can be a death sentence.

Salty foods

Salty foods like chips, pretzels, and popcorn should be avoided. Excess salt dehydrates birds and upsets their fluid and electrolyte balance. In severe cases, a high salt diet can cause seizures and death.


Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to pigeons. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the risk. Even just a few bites of dark chocolate can cause cardiac distress, seizures, and death in pigeons.


Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that is harmless to humans but can damage the heart and tissues of birds. The bigger risk is choking. Avocados are slippery fruits that can easily get lodged in a pigeon’s esophagus.

Caffeine and alcohol

Pigeons are sensitive to the effects of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine makes their hearts race, while alcohol causes loss of coordination and drowsiness. Neither substance should ever be given to pigeons.

Raw dried beans

Raw dried beans contain hemagglutinin, a lectin that is toxic to birds. However, thoroughly cooked beans are fine for pigeons to eat.

Apple seeds

The seeds of apples contain trace amounts of cyanide. While a few apple seeds likely won’t harm pigeons, they should not be allowed to regularly consume apple seeds or cores.

Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic can cause hemolytic anemia in birds. Their red blood cells become damaged and rupture when exposed to the sulfoxides in these pungent vegetables. Over time, hemolytic anemia can be fatal if the destroyed red blood cells are not replaced fast enough.

Fatty foods

Foods high in fat like chips, nuts, seeds, and pet treats should only be fed sparingly. Obesity is a common problem in pet pigeons. An overweight bird is at risk for atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, arthritis, and other health issues.


Pigeons are lactose intolerant and cannot properly digest dairy products. Feeding dairy may cause diarrhea, dehydration, and malnutrition.

Raw meat and fish

Raw meat and fish may carry bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can make pigeons sick. Cooked meat and fish that has been safely handled is a better option.

Spoiled or moldy foods

Spoiled, rotten, or moldy foods contain microbes that can severely sicken or even kill pigeons. Such foods should be discarded immediately.

Rhubarb leaves

While rhubarb stalks are okay for pigeons to eat, the leaves contain oxalic acid and other toxins that are poisonous. Consumption of rhubarb leaves can quickly cause kidney failure.

Green potato skins

Like rhubarb leaves, green potato skins also contain solanine and chaconine, two glycoalkaloids that are toxic to pigeons. Fully ripe potatoes are safe, but any green color should be peeled off.

Dry or sharp foods

Dry foods like crackers, chips, and cereal or sharp foods like grit should never be fed whole. Pigeons do not chew and can easily choke. Dry or sharp foods should be crushed or soaked prior to feeding.

String, ribbon, hair

Pigeons are curious birds that may try to eat string, ribbon, hair, or other inedible fibrous materials. These long strands can wrap around the tongue or get caught in the crop. To prevent impaction, keep such materials away from pigeons.


Many common houseplants are toxic to birds, including dieffenbachia, lilies, philodendron, and pothos. Pigeons that nibble on these plants may experience intense burning and swelling of the mouth, difficulty breathing, and seizures. Keep houseplants out of reach of unsupervised pigeons.


While pigeons are unfussy eaters, some foods can be dangerous or even fatal. Avoid feeding pigeons salty, spicy, or sugary snack foods. Opt for healthy grains, vegetables, fruits and protein sources. Always supervise pigeons when they are out of the cage to prevent the ingestion of houseplants or other hazards. With proper nutrition and safe food choices, pigeons can live happy, healthy lives alongside their human caretakers.

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