Stock Dove

Columba oenas

At first glance, it may seem difficult to decide whether the grey pigeon-sized bird youve spotted is a stock dove, woodpigeon or rock dove (feral pigeon). Our guide will help you to identify between the species, based on the appearance and habitat usually associated with stock doves.

Stock Dove

Stock Dove

Close up portrait of a Stock Dove

Close up portrait of a Stock Dove

Stock Dove pictured in its natural habitat

Stock Dove pictured in its natural habitat

A pair of Stock Doves foraging together on the grass

A pair of Stock Doves foraging together on the grass

Appearance & Identification

What do Stock Doves look like?

Stock doves are large members of the pigeon and dove family. Their plumage is mostly grey-blue, but they do have a number of distinctive markings that help with identification. Their nape is marked with an iridescent patch of dark green-purple feathers, which extends into a pinkish chest.

A stock dove’s wings and tail are tipped with black, and two black bars are visible on their folded wings. Their legs are pinkish red, and bills are yellow, with a white cere.

Female stock doves are slightly smaller than males and their markings are less vibrant. Their legs and bill are darker than those of the male.

Juvenile stock doves are smaller and duller than both adult males and females. The pinkish breast plumage is more of a pale buff, and their legs are dark grey.

Close up of a Stock Dove

Close up of a Stock Dove

How big are Stock Doves?

Stock doves are similar in size to feral pigeons, but slightly slimmer. They are also noticeably smaller and less plump than the much larger woodpigeon. Female stock doves are smaller and lighter than males.

  • Length: 30 cm to 34 cm (12 in to 14 in)
  • Wingspan: 60 cm to 70 cm (24 in to 28 in)
  • Weight: 290 g to 330 g (10 oz to 12 oz)
Stock Doves are similar in size to feral pigeons, but less plump than woodpigeons

Stock Doves are similar in size to feral pigeons, but less plump than woodpigeons

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a Stock Dove make?

Stock doves are relatively quiet birds, except for during the breeding season, when their loud calls can be heard on the nest throughout the day and night.

Their main vocalization is in the form of monosyllabic cooing, as well as a slightly louder two note cooing heard from males seeking a mate.


What do Stock Doves eat?

Stock doves are primarily seed-eaters, and their diet also consists of flowers, grains, buds, leaves and weeds. Insects may also be occasionally eaten, foraged from the ground at the edge of woodlands, particularly during the breeding season.

In winter, stock doves find a wealth of grains such as barley, millet, wheat, and maize when foraging in agricultural locations.

What do baby Stock Doves eat?

Young stock doves are initially fed on ‘crop milk’ by their parents. The semi-solid substance is regurgitated directly into their beaks by their parents, until they are able to tolerate digesting seeds.

Stock Dove foraging on the ground in the woods

Stock Dove foraging on the ground in the woods

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Stock Dove?

Parkland and woodlands offer suitable breeding habitats for stock doves, as they nest in cavities in mature trees as well as rural fields and open grasslands.

In winter, habitat needs change, with small flocks foraging on bare and uncultivated arable farmland, often in the company of woodpigeons.

What is the range of a Stock Dove?

The global population of stock doves is estimated at up to 2.6 million birds, within a range that extends from the British Isles and Ireland in the west, southern Scandinavia and Finland in the north, Portugal and north-west Africa in the south, and throughout the Caucasus, northern Iran into Central Asia as far as south-western Siberia.

Where do Stock Doves live?

The UK is home to the most numerous resident population of Europe’s stock doves, with large concentrations in Ireland and the Netherlands. Population declines have been noted in parts of Europe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Poland.

Stock Dove taking off for flight from the water

Stock Dove taking off for flight from the water

How rare are Stock Doves?

Stock doves are common and widespread across the UK, with more than half of the European population of the species resident in Britain.

Where can you see Stock Doves in the UK?

Except for parts of northern Scotland and western Ireland, stock doves are present throughout the UK with particularly high concentrations in the Midlands and south-western England.

They are more wary of humans than feral pigeons and are not as commonly spotted in gardens or heavily urban areas.

Stock Dove foraging on the lawn, pictured from behind

Stock Dove foraging on the lawn, pictured from behind

Lifespan & Predation

How long do Stock Doves live?

The average lifespan for a stock dove is around 3 years, although records of much older individuals exist, including a ringed individual that reached 9 years and 2 months. Breeding occurs for the first time at one year.

What are the predators of Stock Doves?

Foxes are known predators of stock doves, and pine martens also carry out opportunistic raids on their nests. Birds of prey, including sparrowhawks and goshawks, are also known to frequently catch stock doves.

Are Stock Doves protected?

Stock doves cannot be deliberately killed, injured or taken into captivity under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, which protects wild birds in England and Wales.

As the UK is considered a stronghold for a major percentage of the European population, the species has Amber status on the British Birds of Conservation Concern list.

Are Stock Doves endangered?

Globally, the stock dove is classified as a species of least concern, although in parts of western Europe numbers are declining, due to habitat contraction. UK populations are stable, and the wider picture shows a moderate increase in European numbers from 1980 to 2013.

Stock Dove taking a drink of water

Stock Dove taking a drink of water

Nesting & Breeding

Where do Stock Doves nest?

Stock doves are cavity nesters and seek holes in old trees in which to make their nests and raise their young. In the absence of natural cavities or disused woodpecker nests, they may occasionally use nest boxes, cracks or crevices in buildings or abandoned rabbit burrows.

Within their chosen hollow, a haphazard platform of sticks will be created, never the sturdiest construction, and occasionally eggs will be laid directly on the base of their cavity.

What do Stock Dove eggs look like?

Eggs laid by stock doves are glossy white with no additional markings or features.

A typical clutch contains two eggs, and it’s rare for more than this to be laid by the same female. Where nests containing 3 to 6 eggs are observed, it’s likely that a second female has laid in the same nest.

Both male and female stock doves incubate their eggs for between 16 and 18 days.

Do Stock Doves mate for life?

Stock doves are a monogamous species, forming long-term pair bonds with a mate that last beyond the duration of a single breeding season. Each year, the pair will usually raise two broods together.

<p><strong>Nesting Stock Dove looking out of the nesting cavity</strong></p>

Nesting Stock Dove looking out of the nesting cavity

<p><strong>A young Stock Dove squab, or chick</strong></p>

A young Stock Dove squab, or chick


Are Stock Doves aggressive?

Stock doves are both social and territorial, using aggressive displays to scare off any threat to their nest site. Vocal aggression will be heard as well as both males and females chase off nearby intruders, such as cats, crows and magpies.

Where do Stock Doves sleep at night?

Stock doves roost in upper branches of woodland trees at night, or if available may spend nights in roosting spots in abandoned sheds or agricultural buildings.


Do Stock Doves migrate?

In the far northern and eastern extremes of their range, it’s more likely for stock doves to migrate once their breeding season ends, while in the west and south, populations are generally resident.

Stock doves that migrate from Sweden, Finland and Eastern Europe head for wintering grounds in southern Portugal and Spain, as well as France and to sites around the Mediterranean Sea.

Are Stock Doves native to the UK?

Stock doves are native to the UK, with around 320,000 breeding pairs resident all year round. The species is present through much of the country, and absent only from the upper north-west of Scotland and isolated patches of mountainous terrain in Wales.

Stock Dove juvenile in flight

Stock Dove juvenile in flight


How to attract Stock Doves?

Stock doves are more wary of human presence than rock doves and collared doves, and are less likely to show up in a back garden or residential area.

Stock doves are more likely to startle easily than other pigeons, so being close to busy human life is not ideal. They mainly eat grains, and may be attracted by seeds that mimic their natural foraging diet of cereal crops.

What is the difference between a Stock Dove and a Rock Dove?

Stock doves and rock doves are around the same size, but rock doves are stockier and plumper. Stock doves have a distinctive metallic green patch on the back of their neck, as well as a pinkish-mauve chest, while rock doves are a darker grey, and have bolder dark markings across their wings.

Rock doves are better adapted to living in close proximity to humans and survive on scraps of discarded food in town centres and residential streets. In contrast, stock doves are more at home in rural settings, such as woodlands and cultivated fields.

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Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Columba oenas

Other names:

European stock dove, Eurasian stock dove



Conservation status:




30cm to 34cm


60cm to 70cm


290g to 330g

Other birds in the Pigeons and doves family

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