Common Wood Pigeon

Common Wood Pigeon

Columba palumbus
Population size
51-73 mln
Life Span
3-17 yrs
300-615 g
38-44.5 cm
68-80 cm

The Common wood pigeon is a large member of the dove and pigeon family. Adult birds bear a series of green and white patches on their necks and a pink patch on their chest. Juvenile birds do not have white patches on either side of the neck. When they are about six months old they gain small white patches on both sides of the neck; these patches gradually enlarge until they are fully formed when the bird is about 6-8 months old. Juvenile birds also have a greyer beak and an overall lighter grey appearance than adults.


Common wood pigeons occur in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. In the colder northern and eastern parts of Europe and western Asia they are migrants, but in southern and western Europe populations are often abundant residents. Wood pigeons inhabit deciduous or coniferous woodlands, shrubland, cultivated areas, and are commonly seen in parks, gardens, towns, and cities.

Common Wood Pigeon habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Common wood pigeons are diurnal birds spending their days perching, feeding, and flying. Their flight is quick, performed by regular beats, with an occasional sharp flick of the wings, characteristic of pigeons in general. They usually take off with a loud clattering. Common wood pigeons are gregarious, often forming very large flocks outside the breeding season. Like many species of pigeon, wood pigeons take advantage of trees and buildings to gain a vantage point over the surrounding area, and their distinctive cooing 'coo-COO-coo-coo-coo' means that they are usually heard before they are seen.

Diet and Nutrition

Common wood pigeons are herbivores (folivores, granivores, frugivores). Most of their diet consists of round and fleshy leaves from vegetables taken from open fields or gardens and lawns. They also favor young shoots and seedlings, grain, pine nuts, and certain fruits and berries. In the autumn they also eat figs and acorns, and in winter buds of trees and bushes. Wood pigeons may occasionally eat larvae, ants, and small worms.

Mating Habits

year-round but usually in August-September
17-19 days
2 eggs

The breeding season of Common wood pigeons can happen year-round if there is food abundant; however, most commonly it occurs in autumn between the months of August and September. Males exhibit aggressive behavior towards each other during the breeding season by jumping and flapping wings at each other. Their plumage becomes much darker, especially the head, during hot summer periods. When the male performs his courtship display he perches well and walks along a horizontal branch with swelled neck, lowered wings, and fanned tail. During the display flight the bird climbs, the wings are smartly cracked like a whiplash, and the bird glides down on stiff wings. Mated pairs nest in trees in woods, parks, and gardens, laying 2 white eggs in a simple stick nest which hatch after 17-19 days. The young usually fledge at 33-34 days; however, if the nest is disturbed, some chicks may be able to survive having left the nest as early as 20 days from hatching.


Population threats

There are no major threats to the Common wood pigeon at present.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Common wood pigeons is 51,000,000-73,000,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their diet, wood pigeons may act as dispersers of seeds for some of the fruiting plants they eat.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Pigeon is a French word that derives from the Latin word 'pipio' and means a 'peeping' chick.
  • The Common wood pigeon is locally known in southeast England as the "culver".
  • Unlike most birds, both sexes of pigeons produce "crop milk" to feed their chicks which is secreted from the lining of the crop.
  • Body feathers of pigeons have very dense, fluffy bases, are attached loosely into the skin, and drop out easily. This adaptation possibly serves as a predator avoidance mechanism as large numbers of feathers fall out in the attacker's mouth if the pigeon is snatched, helping the bird to escape.
  • Pigeons are capable of clinging to branches and even hang upside down when they need to reach fruit.


1. Common Wood Pigeon on Wikipedia -
2. Common Wood Pigeon on The IUCN Red List site -

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