Quick Facts: Why Do Pigeons Puff Up?

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The way we used to communicate before the rise of electronic mail and the phone relied heavily on manual labor. 

Pigeons could fly a letter much faster than a man walking on foot, so they were often our go-to method for making deliveries.

With so many different types of pigeons, there’s a lot to know. 

Whether you’ve raised them as a hobby or watch them for entertainment, you need to understand the details about their behavior and how they live. 

This will give you a better chance at being successful. Let’s explore this topic together.

Why Do Pigeons Puff Up?

Pigeons will puff up their neck, chest, and feathers when they want to attract mates or scare off any predators that are near. Pigeons also puff up their entire bodies when they’re angry or when they’re sick.

When male pigeons have to do the mating dance, they’ll puff up feathers from different parts of their body. Other stressed animals will puff up as well. 

For example, a pigeon may puff its chest to make it look stronger and more intimidating. Different parts of the body will puff at different times, and some are related to each other.

Puff up their neck:

Male pigeons puff up their neck feathers to attract mates. At first, the male pigeon might make a cooing sound and puff out his neck feathers. He will then begin to drag his tail feathers side-to-side like he’s drawing circles in midair.

Pigeons typically have a mating dance. The male pigeon will put his head and wings down, raise his tail feathers, and bow in front of the female. 

In turn the female pigeon may move her own head and twist her neck, widening out her wings with a spiraling motion.

For example, if you watch a street pigeon with an inflated neck and follow its behavior for some time, then you will inevitably witness the wonderful mating dance of this pigeon.

One common way you can see pigeons displaying this behavior is by puffing up their neck feathers. 

You might think this means they’re just lucky to have such great hair, but that’s not always the case. Puffing up neck feathers can also mean an expression of anger or anxiety.

When some pet owners call their bird, the male pigeon will approach and make cooing sounds. This act can be interpreted as a display of affection in a pigeon.

Puff up their chest:

Pigeons sometimes puff their chest to make themselves look bigger. In addition, it is a self-defense mechanism. A pigeon may puff its chest if there’s a predator nearby.

Most predators go for an easy catch, so the less conspicuous a bird looks, the easier it is to hunt them. 

However, sometimes birds use tricks to make themselves look bigger and heavier than they are, which increases their chance of survival.

Besides the obvious adaptations for living in cold weather, such as molting or puffing their chest feathers to fend off the cold, this bird also engages in a behavior called wind shuffling. 

This helps regulate the bird’s body temperature and ensures that its vital organs like lungs and heart stay warm on freezing-cold winter days.

The pigeon’s puffed-up chest might also be a sign that it is sick. If your pet pigeon looks tired and takes an abnormal amount of time to recover, it may be ill.

Puff up their feathers:

Preening is the term for when pigeons puff up their feathers. It’s a way to regulate their body temperature with those air pockets underneath the feathers. 

They also clean off any dust and debris that may have settled on the feathers using preening so they can stay cool.

If you’ve ever seen a pigeon bathing, the feathers will puff up to let the water reach properly and keep the feathers inflated while it bathes.

What Does It Mean When Pigeons Puff Up?

Do pigeons puff up when they mate? Yes. When a pigeon mates, it sometimes puffs up to show off its feathers. 

A male pigeon will try to attract the female with a particular gesture – like dragging down his tail and bowing in front of her. 

However, the most distinctive sign of mating for a male pigeon is the puff-up neck and feathers, along with cooing sounds.

What Does It Mean When Pigeons Puff Up And Coo?

For humans, it’s easy to express how we feel. We can give our loved ones gifts or propose them in grand fashion. But pigeons don’t have many options for expressing their feelings.

This behavior is common in pigeons, and actually produces a song typical of their species- which sounds like “coo coo coo”. The male in question will puff up his neck feathers along with it. 

Feather puffs are associated with courtship rituals and mating behaviors. As humans, finding someone to mate with is a much more complex process that goes beyond just checking their compatibility.

Before female pigeon mates with a male, she must first assess if he is strong enough to protect her and has good genes for survival. 

When the male pigeon stands up straight and spreads his wings, it signals that he is powerful and fit. He also performs a mating dance where he coos at the female before they mate.

Why Do Pigeons Puff Up And Dance?

The natural world follows a simple yet brutal rule: the fittest members of a species survive to reproduce. 

The most genetically fit individuals have the opportunity to procreate and pass along their dominant DNA to the next generation to keep the lineage alive.

In a race to establish dominance, one female may fight with another. Others may try to impress the opposite sex with mating calls and dance. 

For pigeons, the male bird will puff up his chest feathers and pairs of male and female pigeons will dance together; they will build a lifelong bond, stay close to each other, build a nest, lay eggs and raise children together.

Pigeons puff and dance as a gesture for mating, but they also show tolerance levels, genetically good attributes, agility, etc. Pigeons that are raised in captivity may not respond well to forced breeding matches.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the pigeons you have are male or female. Different breeds may not mate, depending on what type of pigeon it is.

Even if you get a male and female pigeon of the same breed, it can be hard for them to mate. It’s going to take some trial-and-error for you to find a perfect mated pair.

Why Do Pigeons Lift Their Tails Up?

In pigeon mating dances, the typical behavior is to drag the tail down and turn to make a bow. 

However, different breeds of pigeons may have feathers that they prefer while in these dances. There are some with magnificent tail feathers, for instance.

Most fancy breed pigeons have the tail lift up and spread out in an elegant display. This is a characteristic of the mating dance they perform.

How To Know If A Pigeon Is Sick?

Visible wound: 

If you have captive pigeons, finding visible wounds like bleeding or broken wings will be easy to spot and require immediate attention.

If these wounds are unattended, they may lead to infection and broken wings leave your pigeons vulnerable, making them an easy meal for predators.


If you see that the pigeon is not doing any of its normal activities, and is not responding to any kind of attempt, then it may be dealing with some kind of physical illness. 

It’s better to separate the bird and seek professional medical help. Having a sick bird around others will only increase the spread of sicknesses among the other birds.

Puffed up chest:

“Puffed up” is a word for when you puff your chest and walk around with a large posture.

The chest puffing up of a pigeon is a sign of stress or sickness. Pigeons puff up their chests to make themselves look larger and less vulnerable, but the puff-up goes down in 10 or 12 minutes. 

If your pigeon’s chest is puffed up for more than 10 to 12 hours straight, then it could be an emergency.

Final Thoughts

When you first look at a pigeon, it might not seem like they’re doing anything. But, if you take a step back and watch for a little bit, you might notice that they do have behaviors behind each action. 

Pigeons will sometimes puff up their feathers around the neck, chest and head. Puffing up could be used to attract mates or to scare off predators who might prey on them when they’re ill.


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