A Divisive Guest In The Garden – Wood Pigeons.
Numbers of Woodpigeons in gardens are soaring, the year-round British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey* reveals. With their stout physique and large appetites, Woodpigeons are a species that cannot be missed, whether they appeal or not.
The handsome, portly Woodpigeon is not always a welcome guest but it’s continuing to increase its presence in gardens, and August is a great time to spot one. They are quirky, interesting birds. For example, while most species have to tilt their heads back to swallow when drinking, Woodpigeons can suck water through their beak like a straw. During late summer, the Woodpigeon population swells as young fledge the nest, and both juveniles and adults turn to gardens for handouts. A single Woodpigeon can eat the same amount of food as seven sparrows, and some householders find their penchant for expensive bird food – usually provided with the intent of sustaining smaller species – difficult to swallow.
Woodpigeons on the march
The increase in numbers of Woodpigeons in gardens over recent years has been remarkable, and reflects a broader population boom for this species across all habitats. In August 1995, the year in which BTO Garden BirdWatch was set up, 48% of the survey’s participants were visited by a Woodpigeon during a typical week. By August 2011, this figure had rocketed to 83%. Gardens do not appear to be driving their recent success: instead, agricultural change, notably increased production of oil seed rape, has improved survival prospects over winter and given their population a boost.
Woodpigeons have quite a broad diet but are particularly partial to seeds. Despite their large frames, they can be surprisingly dextrous, sometimes balancing on hanging feeders with their wings outstretched. Instead of attracting Woodpigeons, many householders might want to deter them and feeder sanctuaries are effective in achieving this. These are metal cages with holes of a sufficient diameter to restrict access, only allowing small birds to access the tasty morsels within.
Top feeding suggestions
- Woodpigeons prefer grains and larger seeds. Attract them by providing seed mixes with a high cereal content; deter them by avoiding these foods.
- Use Ernest Charles ground and hanging Feeder Sanctuaries to prevent large birds, like Woodpigeons, monopolising the food that you provide.
Woodpigeons are large birds – considerably bigger than both Collared Doves and Feral Pigeons – weighing around 450g. Adult Woodpigeons sport a white neck-collar, above which is positioned an attractive turquoise patch. The white neck collar is absent in recently fledged young, so be mindful of this when birdwatching during August. The plumage on the breast is a soft blend of purple, pink and grey. The remainder of a Woodpigeon’s attire is predominantly grey, black and white. In flight, the white neck collar and white wing patches are noticeable, which aids identification. Both males and females look similar.