Pigeon Milk, the wonder food

10 day old squab on a building ledge in New York City - image by Cutiepie Company

Lucky chubby squab. Fed the wonder food of Pigeon milk, they can double their size in 48 hours. In the book Pigeon, Barbara Allen also reports that, “Pigeon milk fuels what is one of the most explosive growth rates of almost any creature on earth”.  I’d like my next protein shake to be made of pigeon milk.

How to milk them? Fortunately, both the parent pigeons secrete the milk from their crops, which is located where the breast is. No nipples though, they use their throats like straws in reverse and their beaks serve as the delivery point into the mouths of their squab. So, I’m imagining a mechanical squab head bobbing around in the nest which is designed to accept the milk from the parent. This does sound ridiculous at first, but robotic cow milking machines are doing the same thing: mechanically milking an animal so humans can enjoy the nutritious results. Do check out this video of a robot milker in action on YouTube.  Pigeon milk might take longer to get, but it has more protein and fat than cow or human milk, so perhaps it would be worthwhile? [I can't help but think of that recent, viral story about breast milk ice cream]. Thinking through the oddities of milking animals is enough to cause me to ask for almond milk in my next protein shake.

Breast milk ice cream on sale at a London ice cream parlour. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

3 Comments

Filed under Biology, Food, Public Perception

3 responses to “Pigeon Milk, the wonder food

  1. Anne Cornell

    Though this stuff can’t taste good, there’s always the option to substitute the real thing with this Formula for Columbiform Hatchlings (article includes details about differences between baby food brands and a defense of corn oil) posted by Diane Winn and Mark Fink http://www.nyswrc.org/2010summer.pdf
    1 (71 gm) jar Beech-Nut Stage 1 Chicken & Chicken Broth® Baby Food
    1 ½ tsp corn oil
    1/8 tsp active culture plain yogurt
    0.3 g calcium carbonate
    2 100-125 mg scoops Avi-Era® Avian Multiple Vitamins
    0.2 ml Kirkman Liquid Iron
    1.5 ml Lambert Kay Avimin® Liquid Mineral Supplement for Birds
    Blend above ingredients until smooth (small amounts of additional water may be added to achieve tubing consistency). Egglets may benefit from the addition of Pancrezyme® or Pancreatin

    ‘Egglets.’ What a beautiful little word. If you’re tempted to try this formula, Winn & Fink ask you to let them know how it works for you @ http://www.avianhaven.org/

  2. WWWWW

    One, only female mammals make milk. Two, what’s in this pigeon “milk” exactly?

    • Amy

      It does seem strange, but it is referred to as milk, even when made by birds. This page on Stanford University’s website describes bird milk as a “special secretion” that is “produced by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop, a thin-walled, sac-like food-storage chamber”. The Pigeon book I’m reading by Barbara Allen refers to the milk as “thick, like porridge” and says it is “high in fat and contains no sugar”.

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