EVERY WEEK THIS YEAR WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LISTT
This week, it is Pigeons and Doves
The terms 'pigeon' and 'dove' are pretty much interchangeable terms (though dove somehow implies a smaller bird) and even the archetypal pigeon the Woodpigeon has been alternatively called the Ring Dove in the past. We have five regular species, of which four are resident and one (the Turtle Dove) is a summer visitor. ID is not particularly tricky, though Stock Doves and Ferl Pigeons sometimes need a second glance.
The standard large pigeon of countryside, parkland and suburban gardens, the Woodpigeon is the whopper among British pigeons and doves. It is the big brute that some people think of as bird food Hoovers in their gardens. Looked at without prejudice, Woodpigeons are subtly beautiful birds, mixing shades of blue-grey and pink and iridescent neck feathers. They are notable in having an obvious white patch on the side of the neck and obvious white bands in flight, which are visible even at a considerable distance. The bill is pale tipped and the eye pale.
A country cousin of the Woodpigeon, the Stock Dove is a smaller bird (the size of a Feral Pigeon) and lacks the white neck side and white wing panels of the bigger pigeon. The wings are bordered by black and the subtly ddifferent grey tone sin the wing are also clear in flight. The rump is grey as is the underwing (both are white in Feral Pigeons) and there are a couple of short ‘broken’ black wing bards. The bill is pale tipped and the eye dark.
Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove
The wild Rock Dove was domesticated centuries ago and now pure-wild-bred birds are rare and localised to remote cliffs, if they exist at all. Much more numerous are the descendants of domestic stock (kept for food or as homing/racing pigeons). These are the city and town pigeons, that local authorities seem to wish to melt the feet of and prevent them roosting with hideous spikes. Wild birds and plenty of Feral Pigeons are similar looking to Stock Doves, buttend to have have darker front end and paler back and wings; white underwing sadn rump; pale leading edge to wing; and two long, complete black wingbars. However, all sorts of variation in plumage occur! The bill is dark tipped and the eye red.
These are the small sandy doves which famously first colonised the UK in the 1950s. Now they are common birds of the countryside and suburban settings. Small are buff, they are sasy to identify. They ahave a thin black neck ‘collar’ and a dark base to the undertail. These are the doves which have the triplet ‘hooo-hooo-hoo’ song.
Having undergone a catastrophic population crash, the delightful summer migrant Turtle Dove is now a scarce bird in the UK, in rural settings of the south half of the country. Most often detected by its evocative soft purring song, they are small doves (even smaller than Collared Doves), with lovely black-centred orange wing feathers, a pink breast and blueish head with a red eyering and a stripy black and white neck patch.
All photos from Alamy