Woodpigeons hit record high in UK gardens

From BTO press release

Woodpigeon. Photo by Mick DrydenWoodpigeons are fast becoming the UK’s most recorded garden bird. Recent results from the year-round BTO Garden BirdWatch survey show that 87% of gardens have been visited during a typical week this year – more than by robins, great tits or house sparrows.

The march of woodpigeons into UK gardens appears to be unstoppable. Nationally, only blue tit (90%) and blackbird (95%) now stand in their way from taking top spot. In some areas, including Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, The West Midlands and West Sussex, it appears that woodpigeons are already top of the podium. In Jersey, these pigeons are in the Top 10 species recorded in gardens but still face competition from old favourites like robins, house sparrows and blackbirds.

Their growing success in gardens is likely to have been caused by several factors. In the UK countryside, increased production of oil seed rape has provided fresh ‘greens’ to eat throughout the winter. Increased numbers appear to have spilt over into gardens, where plentiful food and nesting opportunities are being utilised. 

BTO can also reveal that woodpigeons are reaching deep into towns and cities, now being seen more often in suburban than in rural gardens. Despite bringing a welcome sense of the countryside with them, their large appetites make woodpigeons divisive garden guests. Woodpigeons. Photo by Mick DrydenWe see the same picture here in Jersey where woodpigeon numbers are going up and the birds themselves seeming to become more confiding each year.  Not only is this bird very common all through the year but in autumn we see remarkable numbers overflying the Island as some populations escape the colder northern winters. These migrants don’t seem to join our residents and often huge flocks can be seen heading out to sea from Noirmont. See updates during the migration

Back in the gardens, there are steps that householders can take, however, to ensure that there is enough food left over for smaller birds. Feeder sanctuaries, for example, which are metal cages through which smaller but not larger species can pass to access food contained inside, are a useful tool. Smaller perches might also dissuade woodpigeons from trying to act like a blue tit on hanging feeders.

There is, however, also much to love about this quirky species. Did you know, for example, that woodpigeons are one of very few bird species that produce crop milk – which is similar to mammalian milk – to help them rear their young? They are also true breeding champions, having been recorded nesting in every month of the year!

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