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Nutrition in Columbiformes

(Pigeons and doves)

By Joeke Nijboer, PhD, Nutritionist, Rotterdam Zoo

Most pigeons are either primarily granivorous or frugivorous, with some invertebrates also consumed. Seed-eating pigeons and doves can be fed commercial pigeon pellets (2 mm). These pellets should be comparable in composition to that listed in the NRC requirement of growing chickens 6–12 wk old. Alternatively, psittacine small pellets and mash are accepted by most Columbiformes but, depending on the composition, may have to be supplemented.

Columbiforme parents feed their young with crop milk, which is produced from desquamated epithelial cells and glandular secretions of the crop. Crop milk is rich in fat and protein, devoid of carbohydrates, has a low pH, and contains several Lactobacillus species. Seed-eating pigeons switch in 3–5 days from crop milk production to feeding their young mostly regurgitated seed. Frugivorous pigeon squabs (eg, crowned pigeons) rely on crop milk for at least 30 days.