Woodpigeon

Columba palumbus

40-42cm

Appearance

A stout pigeon that's the biggest in the region. The wings are wide, the head small and the tail is quite long and narrows at the end. The plumage is greyish blue, the breast is tinged with dark pink, and the neck has a white section as well as a green and purple shiny patch. The wings have a white crescent and show dark tips when the bird is in flight. The tail has a black terminal band. Juvenile birds resemble adults, but they have not yet acquired the white neck patch.

Habitat

Favours agricultural land for breeding, especially where it finds thickets or trees. It's becoming more common in villages and cities. Predominately feeds on farmland during winter.

Character

Has a characteristic way of bursting from cover and into the air when alarmed. Performs territorial displays in the air, rising steeply then taps the wings together before heading downwards at an acute angle. Can be seen alone but is frequently in large flocks outside of the breeding season.

Food

Diet consists of plants, crops, plant material such as buds, leaves and seeds, clover, cabbage and other brassicas, ash, ivy berries and peas, wheat and barley. Also eats insects.

Breeding

Breeds all year round, but peak period is between July and September. Female usually lays 2 eggs and both parents incubate for 17 days. Hatchlings are then brooded and are fed on crop milk until a week after they can fly (which is at about 33-34 days old). Multiple broods are often laid in a year (two or three) and the same nest may be utilised.

Population

Is mostly a resident bird in the region, though birds may move between their often large roosts. European populations are migratory and some of these may end up on the region's east coast in October. More than 5 million pairs breed in the UK and approximately 1 million in Ireland. Numbers increase to approximately 10 million birds in the winter.

Observation Tips

The Woodpigeon's call is a recognisable component of the region's countryside. This species is distributed thickly across mainland Britain and Ireland, with the largest flocks forming in the winter.

Voice

Has a gentle, tranquil series of 'orr-oo-oo-coo, oo-OO-ooo' calls.
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