What Is Pigeon’s Milk?
The term pigeon’s milk applies to partially digested food in the crops of the parent birds. The adult birds prepare it with no trouble at all, with aid of raw materials like weed seeds, corn, oats and other grains.
The food is gulped down whole, partially digested into a sort of milky soup and stored in a pouch called the crop. The crop in most species of birds is normally used as a food storage area.
It is located between the oesophagus and the top of a bird’s stomach where food is moistened before further breakdown and digestion through the gastrointestinal tract.
The pigeon is one of only three bird species (the others being flamingos and male emperor penguins) known to produce ‘milk’ to feed their young.
In pigeons the milk starts to be produced in the crop of the parent birds two days before eggs hatch. During ‘lactation’, a curd-like substance is created from fat-filled cells that line the crop and regurgitated to feed the squab.
This ‘milk’ is made up of protein (around 60 per cent), fat (up to 36 per cent), a small amount of carbohydrate (up to three per cent), a range of minerals and antibodies.
Squabs are fed the ‘milk’ until they are around 10 days old. Once the young are weaned the ‘milk’ stops being produced.