What to do if you find an injured pigeon

If you can bring the bird to us in Sutton, we will do everything we can to help it, but if you are not local or wish to know more to care for them yourself, we hope you find the following helpful.

These details are aimed specifically at the feral pigeon but can be applied safely to any species of pigeon -  wood pigeons, collared and stock doves and racing birds. Thank you for wanting to help and hope you find the advice you need.

Rearing Baby Pigeons

Recognizing a Sick Pigeon and Catching It


Injuries - shock -exhaustion - starvation

Injuries - shot - cat attack -illness

General care


Most importantly, keep any orphaned babies you may find warm, using artificial heat if necessary. If the squab is completely without feathers (only has yellow down), a ventilated box containing a red light bulb is needed, (hot water bottles do not last through the night.) Ring a bird rescue centre as soon as possible. If the baby is fledged, then a cardboard box lined with kitchen paper in an airing cupboard is adequate. If you want to rear the bird yourself it is best to feed it 3-4 times a day. Acceptable foods include a mixture fed through a syringe, wholemeal bread soaked in warm water or milk, canary rearing mix from pet shops or a mash of warm porridge or digestive biscuit with a little scrambled or boiled free-range egg (about a third of an egg at first, increasing to half an egg per day).

Unlike garden birds who gape when hungry, it is necessary for the squab's beak to be gently opened to receive tiny pellets of food that should be pushed into the back of the throat. Feed until the crop feels plump or the bird loses interest. Food can be moistened, but do not squirt water into the mouth as baby birds can choke or actually drown this way. Small seeds like millet can be added gradually until the youngster begins to feed itself. When the squab is old enough to begin to peck at seeds, provide a shallow dish of water and cage bird grit.

Once it is well feathered (appearing last under the wings), keep the youngster outside in some sort of cage safe from cats during the daytime. This will get it used to other birds: encourage it to pick up it's own seeds and grains and gain beneficial sunlight. Ideally it should spend some time in a rehabilitation aviary. but if this is not possible, do ensure the bird can fly properly and eat by itself before release, allowing it to strengthen and try it's wings in a bedroom or garage.

When you are satisfied that it is able to fend for itself, let it go in fine weather in a safe area, perhaps a town or city park. well away from cats where it can join a regularly fed existing flock who have all year round access to water.

All baby birds are frail. Please do not blame yourself if the little one dies, even after initial success. Any period of cold weakens their ability to thrive, and infant mortality in nature is always high.


A sick pigeon will fluff out it's feathers as if it is cold, but in winter a healthy bird will not allow you close enough to pick it up. Instinctively, the patient hides, perhaps under a park bench or in a doorway, and is seen on the ground at dusk when it's fellows have flown up high to roost. The droppings may appear green and watery, and signs of bullying by other birds may be visible around the head. Sometimes, when a pigeon is very ill, it has little chance of survival. But you will be doing a kind service to an individual by sparing it a slow and pitiful death, and to the flock by removing a source of infection, if you rescue it. An injured pigeon may be in shock, limping badly, drooping a wing or bleeding.


Pigeons are easier to catch than most birds because they are semi-tame. The flock to which the patient belongs can be attracted with corn or unsalted peanuts. A soft cloth, coat or towel is often helpful. Throw it over the bird from behind whilst it's attention is distracted. The first attempt is the most important since pigeons (being preyed on in the wild) quickly become wary of notice.

Pigeons very rarely bite. Their beaks cannot cause injury. Line a cardboard box with something soft and make a few air holes in it. Pigeons will not die of fright through such confinement. On the contrary, a warm dark environment is vital to overcome shock. One may be fearful of causing further pain or stress by a clumsy catch, but if you leave the pigeon where it is, a cat with no such qualms will almost certainly find it.


A pigeon limping or favouring a leg which may be twisted out of shape should be taken to a wildlife centre or vet who can Xray and set it. If this is impossible one can use the diagram below as a guide. Fractures in the upper part of the leg are best seen by an expert. Fractures

Extend the leg and wrap it in wadding to protect the skin from pressure. Cut a straw to a length that is shorter than the wadding so the sharp ends do not cut the skin. Slit the straw lengthwise, fit it over the wadding then cover with adhesive bandage. Leave in place for 2-3 weeks, longer if necessary.

Birds bones are hollow and very frail. Fractures near joints do not mend well, and compound or multiple fractures need experienced attention. The diagram below shows how a clean break to a wing can be treated.

Clean Wing Break Treatment

Fold the fractured wing into it's natural position. A figure of 8 bandage holds a broken wing in place then another bandage is wrapped over the damaged wing, around the body then under the sound wing. Leave for about a month.


An injured pigeon may be suffering from shock. This means that blood vessels become inflamed and restrict the blood supply, particularly to the toes. These feel cold. To counteract this. keep the bird warm ie. in a box with a wrapped hot water bottle. The condition should not last longer than 3 hours. Bach's Rescue Remedy is helpful. Use the same technique if you know the bird is concussed ie. it flew into a patio door or car. Keep the box away from noise.


One day our society may ban weapons of any kind, but until then one may find a pigeon who has been shot. Sadly, this foul practice is not uncommon because pigeons receive no legal protection.

A puncture wound is generally painful and may bleed. Only a vet can tell if the pellet is still present and remove it to prevent infection. Part the feathers and clean the area with iodine. If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure for a full minute with a finger, swab or cotton bud. This is vital since all birds have a small blood volume and movement accelerates blood loss. Keep the patient still. Heavy panting or laboured gasping may mean imminent death.


Contrary to popular belief, pigeons are commonly caught by cats. Typical injuries are scratches or holes under the wings or on the back with considerable feather loss. In all cases, even if it seems recovered, antibiotics from a vet are necessary since cat's teeth carry bacteria. Clean the wounds with TCP, saline solution or antiseptic spray. Half an aspirin can be given if the pigeon seems in pain. Warmth and quiet are essential before seeking professional advice. Bells on cat's collars and keeping pets in at night help to reduce casualties.


Exhaustion generally applies to racing birds who have gone beyond their endurance. If one comes down in your garden etc. it will appreciate some food. A pinch of sugar in water would also be of benefit. If the breast-bone can be seen or easily felt, there is muscle wastage and the bird is suffering from malnutrition and needs help. In most cases the fatigued pigeon recovers in a day or two and will leave on it's own.


Pigeons suffer from a variety of ailments peculiar to themselves, the most likely to come across being the Paramixo virus and throat canker. The virus causes birds to appear fluffed up. unbalanced or dizzy. They may walk in circles, throw seeds in the air when eating, hang their heads or have fits. No veterinary treatment is available as far as we know but the patient almost always recovers after a lengthy period of rest and care. However, he or she must be kept separate from other birds for at least 6 weeks. Canker or Trichomoniasis seems most common in adult collared doves and young feral pigeons aged between 2 and 5 weeks. It is detected by a swollen throat, wet or bad smelling discharge from the beak and unwillingness to fly. This complaint is fatal if not treated with a drug such as metronidazole bought from a vet. Crop-feeding may be necessary while healing is underway. Please do not attempt to scrape away the white growths unless they are severely restricting breathing, as this may damage the lining of the throat. Keep the patient away from other birds. As with dealing with any animal, please observe common-sense hygiene.


During the time the pigeon you rescued is recovering, suggested containers are a wicker cat basket. rabbit hutch, shed or large box with strips cut away to permit light. Newspaper bedding is the most suitable but needs regular changing! Give mixed corn, bird grit and fresh water in a heavy bowl. If rehabilitation in an aviary is not possible, a spare room or garage allows one to tell if the pigeon can fly properly prior to release. Perfect weather conditions for this are sunny and windless, preferably not in winter. Release near an existing flock where water is always available

Pigeons Feeding

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