Pigeons Are Our Friends or Not


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Pigeons — our domestic companions are our Friends. These birds, greenish bluish in colour are visible everywhere — in our homes, near our homes outside and in many other places. They look so nice, friendly but they can cause us harm. They can cause illness among humans especially our youngsters.

In many localities of major cities including the Indian capital Delhi, people drop some   bajra  grains on the ground for these birds to eat. Within minutes dozens of pigeons and several crows drop on the grounds to enjoy the grains with relish. These pigeons look so nice and friendly but they can cause harm to humans. After eating, their droppings (excreta) look so harmless on the ground, but they can cause harm , even illness among people.

Even if people don’t eat their droppings by mistake, they can cause mild illness — cough and fever among people by their presence . Medical tests demonstrate that these droppings cause lungs disease among people because of breathing  — inhalation of a chemical — antigen that is produced from the pigeon droppings. They cause breathing problems, hypersensitivity among people especially youngsters who can easily catch infection.

Physicians  and medical scientists admit that the cause of people’s illness is the droppings of the birds. The disease sometimes spreads from the lungs to the brain causing erratic behaviour apart from physical illness. The  droppings or pigeon faecal  matter is present everywhere — in the soil, on the roads, even in homes where the pigeons have built their nests.

Scientists who study the behaviour of these birds and the illness they cause admit that it is not only the droppings that are responsible. Rather it is peoples’ habits of overfeeding these birds both in people’s homes as well as in nearby roads, forests and grasslands where there is abundance of them that is responsible for people being afflicted by illness.

People feed these birds with grains etc. resulting in a sort of coexistence between them and people. And the birds safely build their nests in people’s homes, and lay their eggs without fear that they will be destroyed.

Studies carried out by scientists have unambiguously shown that the disease ILD— interstitial lung disease,  is due to exposure of people to these birds in homes, nearby forests, grasslands etc. People generally overfeed the birds and also some grains fall on the ground that are picked up by the birds . Excess food helps birds to overpopulate — thereby increasing the possibility of disease among people.

The suggestion of scientists to people to not overfeed them is often overlooked resulting in greater possibility of disease among people. The birds don’t eat any special food — ordinary food is good enough for them . However, people like to overfeed them that results in their becoming well fed and over active in the company of people.

The nests they build in the homes of people are not of any special type but they are good enough for laying eggs and looking after the pigeonettes (small baby pigeons) when adequate food is eaten by the birds. In fact more the food, larger the number of baby pigeons. Also, pigeons nest throughout the year — not more in any special weather like winter or rainy season. Moreover, pigeons do not have any natural predators which would harm them and reduce their numbers.

They eat normal food, not baby food or food of dead birds — sparrows etc. Pigeons thrive on the normal food offered to them. They don’t eat any waste food that may be easily available. If they get less food over a period of a week or two weeks, their body weight reduces and they reproduce less number of baby pigeons.

In a big crowded city like Bombay, people are not allowed to feed the birds openly — in public places. If they do so and are caught feeding birds in public places, they are fined Rs 500 / —  as penalty. This is because the pigeons will reproduce more and they will require more space to take care of the baby birds. Space is limited in Bombay.

In the capital city Delhi there are also restrictions on feeding birds in public places. People leave some food for their pet dogs in some open places. This is partly picked up by pigeons. Thus there is an unwritten law that one should not leave much food for the birds or the dogs in public places.

Thus, restrictions on offering food for the birds or animals are in place thereby keeping a check on the reproduction of baby pigeons as well as on dogs. Of course some owners of people of pet dogs appreciate the restriction on both the birds and the dogs. The animals are treated well and offered adequate amount of food separately, by their owners.

We feel happy when we see a number of birds start flying from one place to another. Their flight looks interesting and sometimes even majestic.  Let us enjoy their flight.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Aug 2023.

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