British Bird of the Month: Wood Pigeon


The Wood Pigeon is generally grey with a pinkish breast and green, white and purple patch on the neck. The tail has a black tip and the wings have a prominent white patch. The eye is a bright yellow. The legs and bill are pink.

Juvenile birds are browner and duller and lack the white patch on the neck.

Wood Pigeons waddle when they walk, which adds to their general appearance of being overweight. In fact, the Wood Pigeon’s feathers weigh more than its skeleton and it is Europe’s largest pigeon.

In flight the bold white bar across the middle of the wing is very prominent.


Wood Pigeons feed on seeds, grain and crops, but will feed on almost anything that is placed on a bird table.

They also drink a lot, mainly because they do not get sufficient moisture from their food, unlike birds that eat earthworms, etc. An interesting feature about how they drink is that they use their beak like a straw, whereas other birds scoop the water up and throw their heads back to let it flow down their throats.


The nest is a platform made from twigs and built by both sexes in a tree or on a building.


At breeding time male Wood Pigeons can be seen displaying: flies upwards, claps its wings, and then glides downwards with its tail spread.

The white elliptical eggs are smooth and glossy, and about 41 mm by 30 mm in size. Both parents share the duty of incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings.The Wood Pigeon is resident and mostly sedentary though in the autumn and winter they fly twice-daily between roosts and feeding areas.

Scandinavian Wood Pigeons are migratory and many pass through Britain on their autumnal migration to France and Spain, some inevitably stay for the winter in Britain.


Since the 1970s the population has increased rapidly, which may be a result of the expansion of intensive arable farming and in particular oilseed rape. 

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