The Woodpigeon is a conspicuous resident of suburban areas and farmlands across the United Kingdom. These attractive birds are the largest pigeons in the region and the most common in many habitats.
The Woodpigeon is an unmistakable grey bird with white neck patches and a metallic green and lightly barred nape. Their breast and underparts are a warmer, purplish tone, and they have reddish legs and feet. These large, heavyset pigeons have pale yellowish eyes and a pinkish, orange-tipped bill.
Distinguishing between male and female Woodpigeoons is challenging, although the females are slightly smaller and slimmer. They also have less prominent white neck patches and duller breast plumage.
Juvenile Woodpigeons are duller than adults and have rusty brown chests. They lack their parents’ white neck spots and iridescent green nape and have blue (not yellow) eyes.
The adult Woodpigeon is most easily confused with the Stock Dove (C. oenas), although that species is significantly smaller and lacks the characteristic white neck spots of the Woodpigeon.
Woodpigeon standing in a park
Woodpigeons are large birds, about the same length as a Carrion Crow. Their large size is helpful in distinguishing them from the similar Stock Dove and Feral Pigeon.
Woodpigeons have a total body length of 41 to 45 centimetres, about 25% longer than other pigeon species in the UK.
They are heavy birds with average body weights between 480 and 550 grams, although the largest recorded specimens reach 690 grams.
Woodpigeons are strong in flight, with an impressive 75 to 80-centimetre wingspan.
Woodpigeon standing on top of a snow covered bush during the winter
Woodpigeons make typical coo-ing sounds similar to those of the Collared Dove. However, the Woodpigeon differs by having a five-noted advertising call with the most emphasis on the second syllable. This call is sometimes described mnemonically as ‘My toe hurts Betty.’
Woodpigeon perching on a wooden fence
Woodpigeons are omnivores, although plant material is dominant in their diet. They feed on various plant parts, including seeds, shoots, fruits, and leaves, and select the most abundant and nutritious food sources as they become available throughout the year.
Crops like peas and sprouts and grains like wheat, barley, maize and oats are energy-rich and readily available food sources, although Woodpigeons utilise a wide variety of weeds and native plant species too. They will eat insects and other invertebrates like earthworms opportunistically.
Woodpigeons, like other birds from the Columbidae family, feed their young pigeon milk. This nutritious and protein-rich liquid is produced by special cells in their crop and fed by regurgitation.
Check out our complete guide to learn much more about the Woodpigeon’s diet.
Woodpigeon foraging on the ground with an acorn in its beak
Woodpigeons are habitat generalists that forage in farmland, woodland, and parks and gardens in towns and cities.
Woodpigeons have an extensive range in the United Kingdom. They occur throughout Wales, England, and Northern Ireland in suitable habitats and are widespread in Scotland except for the northern highlands.
Woodpigeons live everywhere, from back gardens in towns and cities to farmland and even remote countryside habitats. They spend most of their foraging time on the ground and rest, roost, and nest in trees and other vegetation.
Woodpigeons are abundant in the United Kingdom, with over ten million resident adult birds. Their numbers have increased steadily since the 1970s.
Woodpigeons are common in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, farmlands, towns, and cities.
Pair of Woodpigeons perching in the trees
Woodpigeons can live for over 17 years, although their typical lifespan is three years.
There’s much more to learn about the Woodpigeon’s lifespan. Read our in-depth guide to learn more about their longevity, threats, and survival strategies.
Woodpigeons are vulnerable to a variety of predators, both as adults and before they leave the nest. The following species are known predators:
Woodpigeons in the United Kingdom are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. These birds are included on the General Licence GL42 but may only be controlled under specific and regulated circumstances.
Woodpigeons are still abundant in the UK, despite their amber conservation status. This surprising status relates to their population at a greater European scale and does not represent their local trend. According to the IUCN, they are increasing globally and are currently ranked as a ‘Least Concern’ species.
Woodpigeon resting on a wooden fence pole in its natural habitat
Woodpigeons generally build their nests 1.5 to 2.5 meters above the ground in trees, either on branches or in forks. However, they will also nest in hedges and other vegetation, on buildings, and sometimes even on the ground.
Woodpigeons may nest in any month, although most nesting occurs between late February and August, with a definite peak in the summer.
Woodpigeons lay one to three (usually two) plain white eggs, each measuring approximately 41 millimetres long and 29 millimetres wide.
Woodpigeons form close pair bonds, and some even mate for life. Check out this complete guide to learn more about the Woodpigeon’s love life.
Nest of a Woodpigeon with two eggs
Woodpigeon at the nest with its young
Woodpigeons are gregarious when not breeding and form large flocks. However, they can be aggressive around food sources or when defending a territory in the nesting season. These birds face off and strike each other with their wings, sometimes for several minutes at a time.
Woodpigeons are diurnal birds that spend the night roosting in trees, vegetation, and other sheltered places.
Woodpigeon roosting in the trees
Woodpigeons are resident in the United Kingdom, although they are highly migratory in the north and east of their range on mainland Europe and Asia. Each year, large flocks pass through the UK en route from their Scandinavian summer range to their overwintering grounds in southern Europe.
Woodpigeons are a native species in the United Kingdom.
The Woodpigeon is just one of five wild pigeon and dove species in the UK. They are the largest and commonest pigeon in most habitats.
Woodpigeons are considered an agricultural pest species due to their habit of feeding on grain and vegetable crops. They may cause significant localised damage at times of the year when they gather in large flocks.
Pigeons and doves are known to make lovely pets, and there’s no reason to think a tame Woodpigeon would be any exception. However, keeping a domesticated bird like a fancy pigeon or Diamond Dove as a pet would be far more practical.
Rats do not eat live adult Woodpigeons, although they are known to feed on their eggs, and they may feed on young chicks.
In England, Woodpigeons are covered by a general licence that makes their lethal control legal under certain circumstances. They may be shot only if they pose a legitimate risk of spreading disease among livestock, eating their feedstuffs, or damaging crops. Consult with Natural England and any relevant departments for more information before shooting any wild birds.
Common Wood Pigeon, Common Woodpigeon, Wood-pigeon, Wood Pigeon
Family:Pigeons & Doves
41cm to 45cm
75cm to 80cm
284g to 690g
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