Photograph of a woodpigeon staring into camera

Birds: Pigeon Post

Woodpigeon is worth 3 points in our Open Your Window Bingo!

Roz Wade, Learning Officer at the Museum, writes:

As our biggest and most common pigeon in the UK, here is a bird you are likely to have seen in your garden, through your window or on a walk. Even if you haven’t seen it you have probably heard it: check out its coo-cooooo-cooooo-coo-coo call on the RSPB website, open your window and have a listen. Can you hear a woodpigeon nearby? Working from home with my window open, I hear them all day, but was treated to a whole chorus in the distance when I went out to listen to the dawn chorus earlier this month:

Recording by Roz Wade

Be warned, if you play a recording like this outside or with your window open, your local woodpigeons may well join in!

This isn’t the only sound woodpigeons make – hearing them take off their wings make quite a racket too! Here is a pair of woodpigeons my camera trap making clattering noises with their wings.

Video credit: Roz Wade

Woodpigeons do like a suburban garden. They can be a little on the greedy side – the BTO has some great advice on how to make sure the other birds in your garden get a look in when you put food out: BTO Woodpigeon factsheet. We have found the woodpigeons are rather fond of the bird bath in the garden as well – compare these pictures of a woodpigeon and a blue tit at our bird bath and they really do dwarf everything around them!

So woodpigeons are big and noisy and easy to spot. That doesn’t mean they are not interesting. Every animal has fascinating biology, and the woodpigeon is no exception. Take the crop-milk it produces to feed its young. This is a fluid high in fats that is produced by special cells in the crop (a sac-like structure for food storage seen in birds). It provides the newly-hatched young with similar nutrition to that provided in the egg. You can find out more about crop milk from the BTO website.

How do you recognise a woodpigeon when you see it, and not mix it up with some of the other pigeon species we find in the UK? Woodpigeons are big, grey birds with a pinkish breast and characteristic white collar around the back of its neck. Feral pigeons and stock doves, the most likely birds you might confuse them with, are smaller and lack the white feathers on the neck. The Wildlife Trusts have some handy ID tips on these birds.

Here’s a woodpigeon strutting by our garden pond so you can see its features really clearly:

Video credit: Roz Wade

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