Why Do Pigeons Fly in Circles? Explained in 2024

Few things in today’s world cause us to pause our technology-driven lives and look out the window for a moment. A flock of flying pigeons is one of them. But the fact amazed us why do pigeons fly in circles and why not randomly?

Pigeons fly in circles for better navigation, to search for food, to save energy, to escape from predators, birds, and some other reasons.

In this article, we discussed pigeons’ extraordinary flying habits.

Why do pigeons fly in circle

8 Reasons Why Pigeons Fly in Circles

pigeons fly in formation

1. To stay connected to their flocks over long distance

Pigeons are good at navigation. Pigeons use ultra-low frequency for navigation systems.

Ultra-low frequency, or ELF, is an electromagnetic wave with a wavelength of 1,000 kilometers. It is a sound wave that exists from the lowest to the highest of the atmosphere. This helps them know where they are heading while exploring the long-distance and staying connected over long distances.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology Radolfzell have investigated the navigation ability of pigeons and claimed that they depend primarily on their olfactory sense to navigate.

2. To find the way home

Young pigeons can identify environmental smells in the winds, and they use these smells when they return home from afar or unknown places. They fly in rotations to locate the odor that reminds them of home.

3. To stay in the thermal pool

Pigeons fly in circles to use a weather phenomenon in their favor which is known as thermal. Thermals help pigeons elevate, and they fly in loops to stay in the thermal pool to use less energy during flight.

4. To find the earth’s magnetic fields

Scientists have discovered that pigeons can detect the earth’s magnetic fields with magnetoreceptors in their upper beaks. They can use this information to fly in perfect circles over long distances.

Researchers believe this sense of direction works best at dawn and dusk when the light is dim. We can see pigeons soaring in circles to return to their nest before the evening.

5. To save energy

Flying upwards is a difficult task. When pigeons fly in a circle, they can use the updrafts to gain height and soar effortlessly. The circle “structure” can be a way to allure more birds to join the circle. So they can all save energy together.

6. To collect food

Pigeons usually eat insects such as worms, ants, etc., seeds, fruits, berries, rice, and vegetables. The pigeons of the urban environment fly together to collect food. To fly in circles, they hunt invisible insects together and use speed in their favor.

7. To save themselves from predators

The approach that the small fish school at sea evades sharks and whales, pigeons can follow the same way but in the air! They stay and fly in circular patterns and whirl around to make it difficult for predatory birds to choose a target. While trying to ponder which target to focus on, predators waste time, and the prey can get away!

8. To exercise or train their descendants

Pigeons also fly in rotations to exercise together or teach the young ones.

A flock of pigeons is flying

Why Do Pigeons Fly in Circles at Sunset?

Pigeons fly at sunset to use thermal energy to fly long distances. Thermal is a natural phenomenon that generates an atmospheric updraft in the air. An updraft is a motion of air in which warm and wet air is flown out in the upward direction to cool the air above the ground in an evaporation system.

Thermal is usually generated due to the heat of the sun and formed from morning to evening.

In the morning, the surface-level air temperature starts to rise with the sunrise. The molecules of thin air near the ground begin to move in an upward direction. High-density air molecules from the higher height of earth replace the thin air. Urban pigeons take advantage of this thermal energy to fly long distances.

Air near the ground stays warmer during the sunset. This warm air generates heat and updrafts. They stay skyward using the rising force of this air. That’s why a circle of pigeons is seen to be flying to their nest during the sunset.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Pigeons Keep Circling?

Pigeons keep circling on updrafts. Updrafts are upward currents of hot air. It takes lots of energy for them to gust their wings, so they look for an updraft that will take them very high.
Homing ones will do that while they try to get back to their home.

What is it Called When Pigeons Fly in a Circle?

When pigeons fly in a circle to create different patterns, it is called a murmuration. They use their circling to attract more pigeons to fly together.

Do Pigeons Fly in formation?

Pigeons usually fly in a flock. Their flocks look like circles. Sometimes these groups are formed with 20 or fewer birds, and sometimes groups are formed with thousands of birds.


There are a lot of theories about why pigeons fly in circles. Better navigation with their incredible sense of smell, taking help of the thermal, conserving energy, searching for food, and avoiding predatory birds are the possible causes.

Whatever the reason is, a circle of flying pigeons will always drive your mind to the blue for some time!

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