Posted: Wednesday 17 December 2008
by Richard Jones

I love the way woodpigeons strut their plump bodies about on the lawn, peering intently into the wet grass as if looking for something they lost earlier.

Wood pigeon, photograph by R. KennedyThe woodpigeons are back. Not that they had gone away, just that I’ve noticed them a lot over the last week. I love the way they strut their plump bodies about on the lawn, peering intently into the wet grass as if looking for something they lost earlier.

We regularly get a pair in the garden, or sitting on the fence. There were four earlier this year, and I’m guessing this represented two generations. We don’t have large enough trees in our garden, so the nest must be in one of the Lombardy poplars or sycamores a few gardens down.

The second best thing about woodpigeons (after their lovely scientific name — Columba palumbus) is their cooing. I’ve just been listening to a recording of them on the RSPB website, and … I can’t quite work out why, but I find this an incredible evocative noise. It’s definitely not the weather now, but it just reminds me of summer. I cannot work out why I feel this. I must have heard them as a child one summer holiday and it lodged in my subconscious until December 2008. Weird.

All the books say that woodpigeons are only likely to be confused with rock doves (the common pigeon from which domesticated and racing pigeons have been bred) or the stock dove, but when I’ve been with non-birders the white neck marks have got people muddled with collared doves, even though these birds are much smaller.

The easiest way to recognise them, without even seeing them is to listen to their cooing. Wood pigeons have a five-note call, collared doves only three.

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Talkback: Woodpigeons
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Gardeners' World Web User 19/12/2008 at 16:32

We have 200 Olive trees at our farmhouse in Abruzzo, Italy. Can anyone recommend a book, website, DVD etc that gives advice on the general upkeep of the trees. I know nothing!

Gardeners' World Web User 20/12/2008 at 15:18

Sorry, but we have grown to hate woodpigeons. Our leafy surburban garden has a minimum of 3 pairs all year round and inevitably all their offsping. There are easy pickings under our birdfeeder and they continually crash in like jumbo jets on the tits as they drink and bathe in the birdbath, which they then foul by 'pooping' in it. In spring our beautiful silver birch is decimated by their insistence on bendy twigs for their nests, most of which are carelessly dropped and never retrieved. Woodpigeons? - beautiful birds, yes, but in my garden -no thanks!

Gardeners' World Web User 22/12/2008 at 09:31

Reply to tawny. Perhaps you might make use of the third best thing about wood pigeons, after their name and their cooing — their delicious dark meat.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/01/2009 at 20:19

WONDERFUL HOOVERS,I could not do without these wonderful birds calling last thing before nightfall to clean up all the stray seeds and nuts that have fallen to the ground before the rodents appear or they have a chance to set seed all over the garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/01/2009 at 21:20

We have a pair of woodpigeons that havenested in our garden in rural Brittany for the last two years. This year however they seem to have gone and been replaced by a pair of collared doves. Maybe the woodpigeons will will reappear in the summer. I too love the noise they make although our two woodpigeons do sound a bit croaky sometimes!!!

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