As long as people have to stay at home, stray dogs & cats as well as urban birds are facing starvation unless if governments allow some citizens to take responsibility. In some countries, even monkeys are suffering from starvation because they were habituated

In Spain, the part of the government for animal rights has created a form for the people who want to feed cat colonies and for the ones who want to go give a hand in non human animal sanctuaries sanctuaries (in the beginning it was announced that we were no longer allowed to do volunteer work).

In Greece too, a platform has been created where people can apply to show their availability (volunteers, vets, pet shops owners etc.) but the list does not include urban birds (it’s limited to dogs, cats, equins and other farm animals who are exploited by humans).

However, there are more non human animals in need: Urban birds. Because they are depended on us. 

Urban pigeons (Columba livia f urbana), specifically, in some places, they may eat exclusively human based food as for example it has been observed that during a twelve-month period they were eating mainly bread, cake and currants (Murton and Westwood, 1966) and it has been suggested that in London, they have become completely dependent on humans for food since the majority of them were eating food given or discarded by humans, most of which was bread (Goodwin, 1960). Additionally, a study in Spain showed that food provisioning attracted more individuals than waste food (Sol et al. 1998).

House sparrows (Passer Domesticus) since the 90ies are dying in millions. Their urban populations have recently undergone substantial declines particularly in Western Europe (De Laet and Summers -Smith, 2007), but also in India (Girish et al., 2012, Hussain et al., 2014) and North America (Lowther and Calvin, 2006). This massive decrease has led to almost complete extinction in some urban centers, whereas in the suburbs and small rural towns, sparrows have only decreased a little. Αs for their food habbits, research that took place in Poznan (Skorka et al., 2016) revealed that their abundance was positively correlated with the abundance of pigeons which indicates some kind of social facilitation between these birds (both feral and wood ones as well as with collared doves) and it makes sense since their diets overlap. What is worth to mention here is that Bower (1999) attributed the decline that occurred in Hamburg, Germany to a lack of insects, particularly in the beginning of the breeding season and later on, this idea was supported by Vincent et al. (2002) and by Peach et al. (2008) for the decline in Leicester, UK. Vincent et al. reported a complete failure of 14 broods (46% of all) in suburban nests. In most of these cases, the nestlings died after only a few days, suggesting that starvation, perhaps resulting from lack of invertebrate food, was the cause. Van der Poel (2002) attributed the decline in Dutch urban centers due to the lack of insects as well.

To gο back to the present urgency though, I would like you to watch this video in order to realize the magnitude of their dependence on us and their suffering these days. This vide has been shot in Benidorm city in Spain recently (19/3) and ti was initially posted by Animal Ethics (Spanish American antispeciesist NGO) here with the following text:

Pigeons and other urban birds are hungry due to the confinement of the population. To help them not starve, on your way for food shopping, to work or during the walk with your dog(s), we recommend leaving grains, seeds or bird food in areas frequented by urban birds. You can also leave the food on your windowsill or balcony, or in places that are easily accessible.”

A week before, the Catalan UPF – Centre for Animal Ethics made another post:


“Some urban birds, like pigeons, are highly dependent on human food. These days when no one is circulating they will be hungry. Whenever you go out for food shopping, to go to work or to walk your dog, remember to bring with you, if you have, seeds (flaxseed or sesame seeds, for example), bread or oats. But they can also eat lentils, rice, barley or wheat. “

I recently contacted Animal Ethics in order to ask if they know anything about the situation for urban birds in Spain and they told me that they asked and they were informed that the people who are responsible to go out and feed cat colonies, are also taking food to birds.

I then asked from the greek organizations who have rescue centres for wild animals and who take care of these birds too, if they could publish a similar post to the above but only one of them answered positively and made a post immediately, by writing the following:

“Emil worries about his brothers and sisters! The free flying pigeons.
Please help them by providing them some food ONLY during your legal exit from your house!
You can obtain corn, wheat, barley, oats and ready-made bird feeding seed formulas, from pet-shops which remain open (in Greece). Alternatively you can make your own mixture with raw rice – lentils – sesame seeds. Bread, especially soaked, can cause fungi infections, so we do not recommend it, but in the absence of any other option it can be given too.

Emil thanks you!! And he wishes you all remain healthy by taking care of yourself and people around you!!
#helpthepigeons #staysafe #pigeonlovers #pigeons #pigeonsneedourhelp #menoumespiti #covid_19″ 

** In regards to Spain, a petition was created yesterday by the initiative “Mis amigas las palomas” through which they are asking from the government the same right that has been given to people who go out and feed cat colonies. If you would like to sign, press here.

Elisabeth Dimitras

(If you are interested in the emerging research field ‘Urban Welfare Ecology’, founded by the organization Animal Ethics, you can read an introduction here)


Bower, S. (1999). Breeding, habitat use and population structure of a house sparrow flock in Hamburg. Hamburger
avifaun. Beitr. 30, 91–128

De Laet, J., Summers-Smith, J.D. (2007). The status of the urban house sparrow Passer domesticus in north-western Europe: a review. Journal of Ornithology, 148, 275–278.

Girish, C., Ajay, K., Parmesh, K. (2012). Population of House sparrow, Passer domesticus in different habitats of District Kurukshetra, Haryana. Nature Science, 10, 113–122.

Goodwin, D. (1960). Comparative ecology of pigeons in inner London. British Birds, 53(5), 201–212.

Hussain, A., Dasgupta, S. and Bargali, H.S (2014). Case of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) population decline: Role of semi-nomadic pastoralist community (Van Gujjars) in their conservation. International Journal of Conservation Science, 5 (4), 493 – 502.

Lowther, P.E. and Calvin, L.C. (2006). House sparrow (Passer domesticus). In The birds of North America online (ed. A Poole). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (

Murton, R. & Westwood, N. (1966). The foods of the Rock Dove and Feral Pigeon. Bird Study, 13(2), 130–146.

Peach, W.J., Vincent, K.E., Fowler, J.A., Grice, P.V. (2008). Reproductive success of house sparrows along an urban gradient. Animal Conservation, 11 (6), 493-503.

Skórka, P., Sierpowska, K., Haidt, A., Myczko, Ł., Ekner-Grzyb, A., Rosin, Z. M., … Tryjanowski, P. (2016). Habitat preferences of two sparrow species are modified by abundances of other birds in an urban environment. Current Zoology, 62(4), 357–368.

Sol, D., Santos, D.M., García, J. & Cuadrado, M. (1998). Competition for food in urban pigeons: the cost of being juvenile. Condor, 100(298–304).

Van der Poel, G. (1998). Are House Sparrow numbers increasing or decreasing in Gooi & Vecht-region in the Netherlands? De Korhaan, 32, 9-10