A lot of people don’t like woodpigeons. Knowing that I had a half dozen feeders scattered around my garden, a colleague once asked for tips and tricks on how to keep them away when he was setting up his own feeding station. Other friends have gone to elaborate lengths to prevent pigeons from perching on their feeders, preferring to allow only the small garden birds grab a bite.
I have never understood this feathered-form of discrimination. Yes, woodpigeons eat a lot, so feeders may need topping up more regularly when they’re around. And yes, they can be rather messy. But I have never noticed them keep the smaller birds away from the feeder, and, personally, I have never had birds make me laugh so much. The expressions that you can capture when photographing them range from sublime to utterly silly.
And once you start watching them, they are as fascinating in their own way as a robin or blue tit. First, they have unusually shaped pupils. I have no idea why and Google hasn’t enlightened me, but I assume there must be an interesting biological reason for it. Second, they tend to produce a very distinctive double flap when flying; I can’t identify bird song but I usually know if there’s a woodpigeon flying over head. Finally, in the spring they engage in what can only be described as avian handbags, flapping furiously at each other in territorial disputes, but seemingly without the fight-to-the-death mentality of the robin.
The dodo of Mauritius was a member of the pigeon family and while its reputation is undergoing revision, I like to think that woodpigeons have some of this aura about them: a bit dopey, a little slow, and absolutely full of personality.
“Who you calling a dodo?”
If you take a few minutes to look closely at a woodpigeon, they are actually incredibly lovely birds. They have a patch of iridescent green on their neck, and the body feathers range from soft peach and beige to grey.
This is an absolutely horrible photo from an aesthetic perspective, but it shows a woodpigeon, a house sparrow, and a blue tit sharing a bird feeder.
This photo always makes me laugh because the lighting and intense look makes it seem like the pigeon is posing for GQ.
Forget-me-not: How can you not admire a bird who stops to smell, or perhaps eat, the flowers?