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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Time-sensitive - How to protect a pigeon nest from predators?

Hello all, I'll try to make this long story short.

I live in the city. I found a feral pigeon nest on my balcony when I moved into my new place a few weeks ago. Soon there were two eggs, and I watched with glee as the parents took turns sitting on the eggs. I researched pigeons and read lots of good advice on this very forum. I fed them whole grain corn and unsalted peanuts, and looked in on them every day. I grew quite attached to the little ones and was looking forward to their first flight.

They got to about 2.5 weeks old, and then they were gone. They were way too young to fly. I went downstairs (I live on the 2nd floor) and found feathers + some other bits and pieces... They got eaten for sure. A larger bird or a cat, I'm not sure. I mean, it would take a pretty big bird to eat a 2.5 week pigeon, no? And in the city? But it would be surprising if a cat got all the way up there. Point is, something got them both... :'(

I was going to throw out the nest. I expected the parents would nest elsewhere since things clearly didn't work out in this location. Well lo and behold, I didn't clean the old, poop-covered nest fast enough—when I came home from work tonight, there was one unattended egg in there.

With the first chicks, I was hoping the couple would establish here and was even thinking of installing a proper pigeon box for future generations. But now I'm afraid the same thing will happen to the next babies. What can I possibly do? Should I discourage them from staying? Whatever got the first chicks knows about the nest and will likely come back.

My current idea: swaping her open flower box filled with poop for a new homemade nestnesting box that would be more secure. I would just put her egg back in the new, clean nest. I've read that pigeons are quick to abandon ship if their nest is disturbed, but at this point that doesn't seem like such a bad option. And if she doesn't (and something tells me she's attached to this spot), at least I'd know the babies are safe from whatever ate them! But... how to you secure a pigeon nest?

Thanks for any advice. I've never cared for birds but I love animals and have a deep respect for nature. I really hope I can help my two ferals have a family.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
No replies since last night... I saw the parents checking out the nest this morning but still no second egg and they haven't been sitting on it.

Posting pictures here in the hopes that it will get people interested and more willing to reply with advice...

EDIT: The hotlinking from imgur doesn't seem to work so here is the album: http://imgur.com/a/7ky5G
 

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Hi. A hawk or other large bird could easily carry away pigeons. They take adult pigeons.
Are you sure that cats cannot get up there? Is there some way to put a roof of some sort over the whole thing so birds flying over cannot see them? If you do that, and the parents abandon the nest, that isn't as bad as 2 babies being torn apart. If they go elsewhere that may be better for them. But if they can be kept safe, then that would be okay. First you have to narrow it down to what could have gotten them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi. A hawk or other large bird could easily carry away pigeons. They take adult pigeons.
Are you sure that cats cannot get up there? Is there some way to put a roof of some sort over the whole thing so birds flying over cannot see them? If you do that, and the parents abandon the nest, that isn't as bad as 2 babies being torn apart. If they go elsewhere that may be better for them. But if they can be kept safe, then that would be okay. First you have to narrow it down to what could have gotten them.
We looked again and both my bf and I think our balcony is safe from cats. It must have been a bird.

However, when I came home from work tonight, there was still only 1 egg in the nest and no pigeons in sight. I took it in my hands and it was cool to the touch. I wonder if it's even fertile. I think maybe she was "ovulating" and had an egg she needed to put somewhere, and she put it there because it's a known nesting ground. But I'm no longer so sure they are intent on truly nesting here. I know nothing about pigeon habits so yeah...
 

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If they haven't started incubating the egg then it's okay for around five days, perhaps a day or two longer in fact. Life won't begin until it's warmed up and I've read some birds delay ncubating until the second egg is laid - perhaps that's why they haven't returned yet. Jays idea about covering the whole thing so as a prey bird can't see them from the air is good, perhaps a little cardboard like you have at the back of the pot may be a good idea along the front of the balcony too. If they don't feel safe nesting there then nothing is lost ATM because the egg remains cold and the veins of life won't form.
I've read you can even refrigerate a fertile egg for a few days before you put it in an incubator or transport it elsewhere as long as it stays cold. Maybe they'll come back and try again, please let's know if they do. What a rotten shock for you to see these babies growing so well and then gone - Mother Nature sure has her cruel side eh?
 

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Pigeons don't usually sit on the eggs till both are layed. They aren't supposed to. That way they will hatch closer together and be closer to the same size.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks a lot for the precisions on pigeon eggs and their natural incubation process. This definitely helps me interpret what's going on. Perhaps they are attached to this nest after all.

I've gone out tonight and brought back a bunch of twigs that are similar to the ones in the original nest. I've found a large cardboard box and placed a plastic bin at the bottom. The shape is sort of like a nesting box, and it has the advantage of being opaque. I'll post pictures when I'm done placing the twigs in a way that ressembles their current nest.

For the moment, my plan is to wait until a second egg appears. If they start incubating them, I'll take that as a sign that they are attached enough to this spot to risk raising new young there. I'll wait a few days and swap the nests but leave them in the same exact spot on the balcony.

Some weeks ago, when the first chicks were born, we had terrible cold rains and I decided to add that cardboard you can see in the pictures, as well as another piece of cardboard on top to protect them from the rain. The parents didn't particularly appreciate my fiddling around—they sat on the neighbour's balcony and flew back and forth, etc. But when I left, they both came back immediately and the new "roof" and "wall" didn't seem to phase them. Based on this I think there's a chance they will accept this new "remodelling".

Crossing fingers and hoping for the best.
 

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I wouldn't mess with the nest. Usually that will make pigeons abandon it. I meant like just put something over it. Something like a board or something. Otherwise I would leave it alone. Maybe just break up the nest and chase them off. That way they may find a safer place to raise young.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, I wanted to wait for new developments to reply, but it's been a while and not much has changed. I see the parents visiting once in a while. To test their presence, I left a few peanuts on the balcony a couple of times and they'd always disappear within 12 hours or so. However, the egg is still alone and hasn't been sat on. The mother barely looked at it, they just eat any food that is there and leave together.

I haven't touched the nest at all. What do you guys think this means?

I also got this private message as a reply which I thought was really odd. I feel like that's some pretty bad advice being circulated privately...

Something you might consider -- make a box trap (box leaning on stick over top of the nest) and at night when the parents are both under the box, pull string to drop the box trap on them and catch them.

Then move the pair into a small loft and keep them locked in there with seed / water / grit till the next round of eggs hatch and the babies are 28 days old. Then open your loft and let them choose if they want to stay or not. They probably will, ferals know a good thing when they see it and make great pets.

You can open your loft every morning to let them fly free, then at night close them in so they are protected.

For loft ideas, google "pigeon kit box". For a single pair of pigeons, the kitbox doesn't need to be that big.

Pigeons are great pets, very affectionate, extremely smart, you will enjoy them.
 

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That is bad advice. You don't want to catch them and interfere with their life. You just want them to be safe.
If they are coming and not going to the nest, then maybe they have started another nest somewhere else. Hopefully in a safer place. Are you sure it is the same pair of pigeons that are coming now?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That is bad advice. You don't want to catch them and interfere with their life. You just want them to be safe.
If they are coming and not going to the nest, then maybe they have started another nest somewhere else. Hopefully in a safer place. Are you sure it is the same pair of pigeons that are coming now?
Definitely sure it's the same pair. The pale, slender female and the dark, almost black male that's a bit larger.

Your interpretation makes sense to me. Maybe that's where the 2nd egg got laid. Hopefully it's a better spot. I still have my makeshift nest in case they come back.

From what I've read, she wouldn't have been able to lay any other eggs—the chicks weren't even 3 weeks old when they got eaten, and only a couple days passed before the abandoned egg appeared. Is that your experience with ferals?
 

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They can start another nest when the babies are a couple of weeks old, and sometimes start a new nest earlier than that.
 
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