Wood Pigeon a Portly Pigeon

Wood pigeon

WOOD PIGEON ON IVY
WOOD PIGEON ON IVY | Source

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

WOOD PIGEON,Calumba palumbus, are not looked upon favourably by farmers of arable land. Winter growing crops, particularly Brassicas, are often severely depleted by roaming flocks of these tenacious birds. Clover foliage is the main stay of their diet when these are available along with other weed leaves. They will take grain from spring sown crops where such food sources are available. During the autumn they take acorns, beech mast and other plant matter. During late winter their diet contains ivy berries which are plentiful and ripe during January and February when other food is at a dearth.

Ivy berries and foliage

IVY BERRIES ARE AN IMPORTANT LATE WINTER FOOD SUPPLY.
IVY BERRIES ARE AN IMPORTANT LATE WINTER FOOD SUPPLY. | Source

In times of hardship

However, in times of hardship and especially when the snow covers low growing weeds the birds turn their attention to crops especially brassicas which are usually above the snow line. This extends to the garden and allotments much to the consternation of the grower.

This has led to retaliation against the bird using various methods of control. Many birds are shot, being a legal quarry, and it is not uncommon to see wood pigeons for sale wherever the sale of game species occurs. I have noticed of late that wood pigeons have become a regular component on the menus of pubs and restaurants { at least locally}. This is not surprising as the birds are very nutritious and very tasty. I remember in the days of my youth that woodpigeon broth was given to people {especially older people} who were recovering from long illnesses.

Wild Game in general is nutritional because the creatures have only eaten natural food and have not been " fattened up" by antibiotics, steroids or other growth promoters. game has not been processed by food manufacturers or do they have preservatives added to them in order for them to last longer than is natural to do so.

Whatever, ones views are on the wood pigeon may be, this article is to introduce the bird to the reader as a member of the avian fauna of the UK.

Wood pigeon

WOOD PIGEONS ARE NOW COMMON PLACE IN GARDENS.
WOOD PIGEONS ARE NOW COMMON PLACE IN GARDENS. | Source

Description of the Wood Pigeon.

Of all the pigeons and doves that occur in the U.K. wood pigeons are the largest being 38-43 cm long with a wing span of 78 cm and weighing 450 g.

Its head, neck and black-tipped tail are of a blue grey colour with green and purples. The White neck collar has purple green situated just above it. { as the picture above shows clearly} The mantle and wings are of a grey brown colouring with prominent white wing patches which are especially visible during flight.

The breast is purplish brown but in the breeding season blushed with pink chestnut hues, much paler on the belly. They have a pinkish bill, pink legs and a pale yellow eyes that often gives the impression of a hard stir full of menace.

The wings in relation to the body are of a medium length, the neck strong, the bill short, the legs are short to very short. The bird walks. Normal flight is fast and direct with a noisy clatter when flushed from a tree. The voice is a soothing 4 syllable cooing call. It is indeed a portly pigeon.

There are several other species of doves and pigeons that may be encountered, however, the white neck and prominent white wing patches make the wood pigeon instanly recognisable. All other species of pigeons and doves are smaller in varying degrees.

Successful species

Until around one hundred and sixty years ago the bird, as its common name suggests, was a creature of deciduous woodland, however, because of persecution the birds began to arrive in the relative safety of towns and villages in ever increasing numbers. here they are safe from the gun and can become quite tame, although always wary.

The birds have been so successful, not only through their adaptabilty but also because of their long breeding season, which lasts from April right through until October, and if the weather remains favourable their are records of occupied nests during winter time. Surveys suggest that pigeons of towns start to breed earlier than those in the wider countryside, possibly because of the slightly higher temperatures in such situations but more likely because food is much more available.

In courtship display flights the bird flies upwards at a steep angle at the top of this flight it claps its wings once before gliding down with wings scarcely upraised, they often repeat this sequence many times. It is impressive to observe. This is the one time that the birds take to this privileged sphere of existence for the joy of it.

Birds do not take to the wing for pleasure { with the possible exception of the sky lark} but as a means of getting from one place of safety to another as quickly as possible. Wood pigeons are efficient performers on the wing flying with a velocity few can match and they are very skilled at manoeuvring through their dense woodland home with amazing agility. For it is this skill and their reliance of speed which can mean the difference to their survival or demise.


Flimsy nest

Wood pigeons nests look flimsy affairs for the size of the bird.
Wood pigeons nests look flimsy affairs for the size of the bird. | Source

Eggs and nest

Once the pair have bonded the task of nest building is under taken. The nest is usually located on the bough of a tree , but sometimes in a shrub or among ivy in the general countryside but in towns may well place the nest on a ledge of a building. they can be deceivingly flimsy looking twigs so loosely put together that the eggs can sometimes be seen through the bottom of the nest. However, this simple rough platform of twigs seems to cope with the capricious weather and winds for the most part.

The eggs are smooth and white and are very similar to those of the feral pigeon or rock dove. The incubation which may take up to 17 days is shared by the parents.

Blending into the ivy

Although a large bird this nesting wood pigeon blends in well with the surrounding ivy.
Although a large bird this nesting wood pigeon blends in well with the surrounding ivy. | Source

Feeding the young

The male bird { in common with most pigeons} sits by day and the female from evening until the morning is well advanced. When the eggs hatch the chicks known as squabs are naked and helpless. The adults eat vegetable matter but feed the chicks with crop milk. In fact this is a misnomer for it is actually a secretion from specialised glands in the adults crop. Both parents can produce this secretion. They regurgitate the "crop milk" to their young. The chicks survive on this secretion alone for over a week or so. It is more nourishing than human or cow milk. More solid food is introduced from then on and by the time they leave the nest the young pigeons are on the same diet as the adults.

The young are noted for their threatening demeanour when disturbed in the nest.

Wood pigeons roosting

WOOD PIGEONS TEND TO ROOST COMMUNALY IN WINTER
WOOD PIGEONS TEND TO ROOST COMMUNALY IN WINTER | Source

Communal flocks

Wood pigeons stay in flocks and roost communally at night throughout the winter until the breeding season. The only natural enemy of the wood pigeon {apart from man} is the rare goshawk although the large female sparrowhawk is known to attack them with varying degrees of success.

Ringing studies have shown that half the ringing recoveries in England are found within 10 k of their original capture. Only a small percentage are found more than 50k away from their place of origin.

The most recent estimate for the wood pigeon population is 2,750,000-3,160,000 territories in the year 2000. {source BTO.} . There were steep increases between the mid-1970s and the year 2000. The current trend is for moderate increases during the next decade or so.

It appears that this pigeon is here to stay.

Wood Pigeon Trivia

Age at first breeding -one year

maximum age recorded- 17 years eight months.

Typical life span 3 years.

Latin name Columba is the Latin name for a dove. palumbus from palumbes-ring dove.[ 1758]

Gaelic name for the bird-Calman -coille

French name-Pigeon ramier.

Irish-Colm coille

Spanish- Paloma torcaz

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Comments 5 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

cwarden thank you for your kind and amusing comments. Best wishes to you.


cwarden profile image

cwarden 5 years ago from USA

Very interesting. I have a huge mango tree in my back yard that is packed full of some type of doves or pigeons this winter. My dogs keep trying to jump up into the tree. It's actually pretty amusing to watch but I don't want to feed them because I'm worried they'll come down to pick up droppings and that will be the end. Nice hub!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi darski thank you for being the first here again my friend. You may be right but I doubt wood pigeons are the culprits. Thank you for your kind comments. Love and best wishes to you.

Gus, hello my friend, yes there are many kinds of doves and pigeons and many do roost communally, and feeding is better than killing, you are so right. Best wishes to you.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Howdy D.A.L. - You, too? We ordinarily have a yardful of similar birds. Ours are known as "White-wing Doves," and they are also well fed and sizeable. The photo of your roosting pigeons reminds me of our doves when they settle down a bit for the night's sleep. One time I counted more than 60 of them in a single tree. Some folks hunt the birds, but not here in the city. Never did that. Prefer to feed the critters from a big sack of bird seed - and watch the lot of them go after it.

Gus :-)))


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Ha, these are the birds that hang around my house eating blue berries, remember the story I told you about painting my house, nice and perfect, then comes along stricks of blue poo running down all around my homm. grrrrrrr Great hub my dear friend. thank you for sharing such an inpiring hub with up. rate up love & peace darski

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