Female Wood Pigeons (Male vs Female: Identification Guide)

Wood pigeons are from the far-ranging Columbidae family and are common throughout most of west, central and southern Europe. These stout birds are the largest, commonest pigeons in the UK, and the fourth most common garden bird overall, according to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch. Wood pigeon males and females are not always easy to tell apart - this is a guide to female Wood pigeons.

Male and female Wood pigeons look very much alike, but the female has a slightly lesser white throat patch and a duller breast. They’re also marginally smaller and sometimes have a more smoothly rounded head. Males have a more vertical posture when puffing up their chest during the breeding season.

Wood pigeons are typically monogamous, pairing for the entire breeding season at least, but often for life. Males and females are cooperative and work together to build the nest, incubate the eggs and rear the chicks. Similar cooperative behaviour is observed throughout much of the Columbidae family of pigeons and doves.

Of course, there is still much to learn about female Wood pigeons - read on to discover more facts about this popular garden bird!

Female Wood Pigeon sat on her eggs in the nest

Female Wood Pigeon sat on her eggs in the nest

How can you tell if a Wood pigeon is male or female?

Male and female Wood pigeons are very much visually alike. Firstly, they’re more or less the same size, spare half a centimetre here or there, and are the same main colours with white throat patches and a violet breast.

Female Wood pigeons often have slightly smaller white throat patches than males, and their breasts are a paler pink overall. Dominant males likely have large white throat patches and a brighter violet breast.

Males tend to have a more upright posture than females, especially juvenile males. Something else to look out for is the roundedness of the head - females tend to have softer, smoother rounded heads compared to the more sharply rounded head of the male.

Identification of male and female wood pigeons by just looking at them alone is pretty hard

Identification of male and female wood pigeons by just looking at them alone is pretty hard

What does a female Wood pigeon look like?

Female Wood pigeons look very similar to male Wood pigeons, with white throat patches, a violet-purple breast, yellow eyes, an orange bill and a white wing bar. Many also have a turquoise-green patch above the white throat patch and an iridescent tinge to the lower neck.

Males tend to be slightly larger than females, with large white throat patches and a more upright posture. Other than that, males don’t possess any features that females don’t. Overall, it’s pretty hard to tell female Wood pigeons apart from males by looks alone.

Are female Wood pigeons bigger than males?

Female Wood pigeons are pretty much the same size as males. Male Wood pigeons, if anything, are slightly larger than the females.

Male and female Wood pigeons are visually alike, and you won’t find many great differences between them, assuming they’re fully grown.

A pair of wood pigeons foraging for food on the ground

A pair of wood pigeons foraging for food on the ground

Other differences between male and female Wood pigeons

Male and female Wood pigeons are visually similar, and you’re more likely to observe differences in them during the breeding season. Males are generally more aggressive, especially when pursuing single females. Once mated, male and female Wood pigeons are caring and endearing to each other and usually mate for life.

Here are some other differences between male and female Wood pigeons:

Behaviour

Both male and female Wood pigeons are capable of territorial behaviour, but males are more aggressive, especially during the breeding season.

Males are often seen chasing each other from treetop perches and bird tables, flapping their wings and even pecking each other if they get close to each other. However, these confrontations rarely result in injury.

Contrastingly, females are more docile in the breeding season.

A female wood pigeon sat on the nest

A female wood pigeon sat on the nest

Breeding

Male Wood pigeons display to their mates before pairing and throughout the breeding season before copulation. Prior to pairing, the male displays by flying up and down in front of the female, spreading his tail and bowing his head. His mating call is pretty low and guttural.

Single males are often seen chasing after females in the early spring. Bullish juvenile male Wood pigeons are pretty easy to tell apart from the calmer, gentler females.

Once Wood pigeons are paired, they’ll often sit close to each other before mating. The male will often rub against the female as they preen and ‘kiss’ prior to mounting her ahead of copulation. Wood pigeons remain close to each other after copulation and often continue to preen each other.

Female Wood pigeons very rarely lay more or less than two eggs, though pairs of Wood pigeons can raise more than two broods a season.

Common Wood Pigeon in flight

Common Wood Pigeon in flight

Nest building and rearing chicks

Both male and female Wood pigeons build the nest, but males tend to transport more material to the nest. In the breeding season, it’s common to see Wood pigeons with small twigs and sticks in between their beak - these are more likely to be males than females.

Once the female lays her clutch, she’ll incubate the eggs for around 17-hours per day. Then, the male takes over for the remainder of the time, usually at night. Both parents feed the chicks, but the male tends to take over after the chicks fledge to allow the female to prepare for the next brood.

Calls and vocalisations

Both male and female Wood pigeons coo - one of the most recognisable garden bird songs.

Males coo more liberally in the breeding season than females. Mating coos are deeper and more throaty and are often accompanied by the male’s typical mating display.

Female Wood pigeons do coo while they’re incubating the nest, perhaps to signal to the male. This usually happens early in the breeding season and may be associated with nest-building activities.

Wood Pigeon preening its feathers

Wood Pigeon preening its feathers

Can female Wood pigeons raise young on their own?

Wood pigeons have evolved to form close, strong pair bonds. These partnerships have helped them survive and thrive as one of Europe’s most common pigeons. In addition, both male and female Wood pigeons partake in nest building, incubation, and rearing the chicks.

Whether or not a female could manage all of these duties on her own is unknown - but the probability call would be that she’d struggle at best.

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