In my city park there are mostly two types of bird:

  • Mallard ducks
  • Rock doves (pigeons)

When I feed pigeons, they approach me very closely. Sometimes they peck the food that fell on my feet. If I hold my hand with food in the air some pigeons will land on my hand and eat.

In the same park there are Mallards, who are always very cautious and they try to maintain about 1-1.5 meters distance from me. They also run away when they see some rapid movement of mine.

Why are ducks more cautious? Why are pigeons more careless?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ For goodness sake, stop feeding pigeons! Let them forage for themselves. $\endgroup$ – David Aug 8 '19 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ And I suggest also that you duck soup. $\endgroup$ – David Dec 14 '20 at 20:41

A possible reason is that pigeons in a city live there year around, while urban ducks often migrate, or their populations are refreshed by new "recruits" from wild populations ; so pigeons have more opportunity to adapt to being close to people. Another possible reason is that pigeons are more agile than ducks on land and are more able to escape if you decide to grab one for dinner.


Maybe pigeons are smarter and recognize free lunch faster . I once worked where thy had a 40 acre lake which attracted Canadian Geese. The geese were a nuisance ,covering walk ways with dung , etc. So the grounds keepers put 2 inflatable alligators on the lake , that kept the geese at the other end for over a week. One day , herring gills landed on the alligators , the geese came back in a matter of hours. Were the gulls smart ,recognizing inflatables , or were they dumb and not recognize danger ?


This could be due to the fact that mallards are wild animals, whereas, although they may appear to be, ferral pigeons/rock doves, are not. They are, as the name suggests, ferral. Meaning they were once domesticated and then their ancestors were set free and left to breed out in the wild. Therefore they may still have some ingrained trust in humans whereas mallards would not.

Edit: sorry I'm new here and didn't know that it was necessary to add sources.



  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! This could become a good answer, but factual answers rather than speculation are expected on this site. Consequently, answers are much more likely to receive a favorable response if you include supporting references (primary literature is best). Without that support, your answer is indistinguishable from opinion. This is a good example of how to format references. ——— You may also want to consult the help center pages and Biology Meta for additional advice on How to Answer effectively on this site. Thank you! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 14 '20 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I've added references now. Sorry I didn't know that it was necessary. Although I don't think the downvote was needed :( 😭😂 $\endgroup$ – Rowan Blackwell-Cronie Dec 15 '20 at 17:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not my downvote! — Thank you for editing. Unfortunately neither of your links works. Your first link leads to an unavailable page (at least for me). The second appears to be a link to a google scholar search, which isn't an acceptable reference. I encourage you to pick out a few of the articles from that search that support your claims and then add them as individual references (see links above for an acceptable format). Also note that links often break over time and so formal references should always be included. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – tyersome Dec 17 '20 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ Ahh okay, thanks for letting me know! $\endgroup$ – Rowan Blackwell-Cronie Dec 28 '20 at 12:49

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