Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

French: Pigeon ramier
GenusColumba (1)
SizeLength: 38-43 cm (2)
Weight68-77 cm (2)

The woodpigeon is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is widespread and common in the UK (3). May be killed or taken under the terms of General Licences (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) (4). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green List (low conservation concern) (5).

The woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) is the largest and most common of Britain's doves and pigeons (3). It is grey in colour with a dusky pink breast and a white neck patch, which is absent in juveniles (2), and earns the species its alternative name of 'ringed dove' or 'ring dove' (6). In both adults and juveniles, a white band is visible on the wings in flight (2). This species produces a husky 'hooh-hrooo' call during the breeding season (2).

Found almost everywhere in Britain except on high hills and mountains (7), and is joined in winter by woodpigeons from the continent escaping harsh weather (2). It occurs throughout most of Europe, reaching as far north as central Scandinavia, east to Russia, and south to North Africa and the Middle East (3).

Found in woodlands, hedgerows, parks, and gardens, and even in city centres. The woodpigeon feeds on agricultural land and it can be a serious agricultural pest (3).

Woodpigeons feed on grains, fruits, seeds, peas and beans, root crops and the occasional invertebrate (3).

Courtship displays involve birds flying fairly high before clapping the wings together and gliding down, as well as males strutting and fluffing out their chest feathers (3). The male brings nesting materials to the female, who builds an untidy platform-like nest, usually in a tree, before laying two white eggs (3). Both sexes incubate the eggs for around 17 days; they then feed the young (known as squabs), on 'pigeon milk', a regurgitated milky substance from a food-storage organ called the crop (3). The squabs fledge 29-35 days after hatching (3).

This common, widespread woodpigeon is not threatened (3).

No specific conservation action is targeted at the woodpigeon (6).

For more information on the woodpigeon and other bird species:

Information authenticated by the RSPB:

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
  3. Gooders, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
  4. RSPB (2003): Pers. comm.
  5. RSPB (2003) The population status of birds in the UK:
  6. Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air. Book Club Associates, London.
  7. Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.