The largest pigeon seen in the UK, the woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) is a large grey bird with white neck patches. It is distinguished from the similar stock dove and feral pigeon by those patches and its pink breast. 42cms in length and with wingspans of up to 80cm, woodpigeons are large birds. They are increasingly common sights across the country.
What is the woodpigeon’s distribution and population?
Woodpigeons are found throughout the UK in fields and woods, but also in towns and cities where they favour life in parks and gardens. The British birds are sedentary, and their numbers are swelled by migrating birds from Europe during autumn and winter.
The woodpigeon population has grown in recent years. This is believed to be the result of changes in agricultural practices. The switch from spring-sown to autumn-sown grains together with the introduction of oilseed rape has helped woodpigeons to prosper in rural areas. There are thought to be 5, 400, 000 breeding pairs in the UK and this species is not of conservation concern.
What do woodpigeons eat?
These birds have a diverse diet which includes seeds, leaves, grains, fruit, peas and root crops. As a result, woodpigeons can be major pests in agricultural areas. You can attract them to your garden by providing seeds and grains, although they will eat pretty much anything. They will dominate your bird table as their size enables them to fend off other birds with ease.
Where do woodpigeons nest?
Woodpigeons construct simple platforms of twigs, usually in trees. However, if trees are in short supply, these highly adaptable birds will build nests pretty much anywhere including in buildings. Females lay two eggs and both sexes incubate these for roughly 17 days. Both parents feed the young on 'pigeon milk' - a regurgitated substance drawn from a food-storage organ called a crop. Chicks fledge after 30-34 days.
Did you know?
Unlike other garden birds, woodpigeons don’t need to lift their heads when they are drinking water.