The common wood pigeon, Columba palumbus, is the largest of the UK’s pigeons and doves. It is considered an agricultural pest, but has learnt that it can lead a happy life in suburban gardens, where they are thriving. The local term for them is “quist”.
I have to say that I am fond of wood pigeons, they seem so hapless and clumsy they always make me smile; whether they are bouncing wildly on a branch that struggles to take their weight, tripping over twigs on the ground, or waiting patiently behind a magpie in the queue for the water dish. Unlike most other birds it does not have to tilt its head back to swallow water, but can suck it right up.
They eat grains, seeds, buds and people’s cabbages. They lay two eggs and the male and female share brooding duties. They also continue to work together to rear the young. Newly hatched squabs are fed a type of milk that wood pigeons produce from special glands in their crops, another unusual aspect of this bird. Whilst they make excellent parents, their nest building skills are apparently questionable. This could explain the following.
While patrolling the garden around 4am to check that Dumptruck the hedgehog was okay (see “Hedgehogs Galore”) I noticed what I thought was a dove sleeping on the lawn. Funny I thought. I carried on my patrol intending to go back to it. I moved on to the other lawn, when I turned around I thought “what the heck?” there was the dove sleeping on this lawn, had it followed me and dozed off again? Nope there were two sleeping on two different lawns. Turns out they weren’t doves, but fledgling wood pigeons! They were pretty feisty too once I’d picked them up. I figured if I could walk up to them and pick them up, then so could the many cats that wander through the garden all night. I put them up into the California lilac shrub, but they panicked and flapped back to the ground. So out came the cardboard box again.
After spending the night in safety I put them into the apple tree. Shortly afterwards an adult appeared to fulfill its parenting duties.Later I noticed that the adults had coaxed their young ones from the apple tree into the California lilac that I had tried to put them in the previous night.
They nest in the very tall conifer in next door’s garden, it has a beautiful clematis climbing up it. I wonder if the strong winds we have had recently knocked the nest tipping the young ones out. They don’t look quite ready to leave the nest as they are still tufty. Hopefully they will stay safe and continue to be looked after by their parents.