The Wood Pigeon has become an abundant species in the UK, having expanded its very historic range from woodland to also include more open country, parks and gardens. In areas of arable farmland and especially where brassicas are grown, Wood Pigeons can be a serious pest – and also can be in gardens and allotments for the same reason. However, with this unfortunate fact put to one side, the Wood Pigeon is a handsome bird and can actually be a useful addition at garden feeding stations, as one or two birds will often stand below hanging feeders and clear up dropped seed. The only two species that the Wood Pigeon can be confused with are the Stock Dove and Rock Dove, but note the distinct white collar on the Wood Pigeon only.
Wood Pigeon diet and food
The diet is mainly vegetable matter and including crops such as cabbage and other brassicas – hence why the species is often considered a pest. They also eat grain, seeds, shots, buds and berries – on the latter they will often feast on ivy berries in the autumn months. At garden feeding stations, virtually any type of seed will be eaten if it’s on the ground, a ground tray or bird table.
Wood Pigeon nesting and breeding habits
Although the nest of twigs appears rather inadequate for the bird’s size and weight – sometimes the eggs are visible through the nest from below – it is none the less a firm enough structure. The nest is built in a tree or large bush, and sometimes old nests of other species are used. There are 2-3 broods per year with just two eggs in each clutch, which both parents take turns to incubate. Interestingly, the young are fed with a highly rich milk (which is even richer than cow’s milk) which is produced in the adult bird’s crop lining.
Behaviour traits of Wood Pigeons
During the breeding season Wood Pigeons are largely a solitary species, but for the rest of the year are much more gregarious and can form huge flocks where food is present – e.g. on winter fields of young rapeseed.
Video footage of Wood Pigeons
Wood Pigeon history and population trends
The Wood Pigeon has greatly increased in numbers and especially since the mid-1970s. It’s believed that part of the reason for this increase is down to the spread of winter cereal and rape seed cultivation (rape seed is a type of brassica), and therefore with a greater availability of winter food, more birds survive to breed in the spring.