There is not much difference between doves and pigeons, as they are all related in the same bird family. We seem to refer to the smaller more delicate looking species as doves and apply the term pigeon to larger woodpigeons and feral pigeons.
All feral pigeons descend from escaped domesticated Rock Doves, now relatively scarce in the UK and only found on the coasts of north and west Scotland. Also increasingly scarce is the Turtle Dove, whose populations have plunged in recent years because of habitat loss and agricultural changes. This is a great shame as it has an attractive purring call and the plumage of its wings, which resembles the pattern of a turtle shell, is quite beautiful. In contrast, the Collared Dove only colonised the UK in the 1950’s but is now common. It is easily identified by the dark collar of plumage on its neck and seems just as comfortable in towns and villages as in the countryside, often visiting gardens and nesting around houses. The other native dove, the Stock Dove, is rarely seen in urban areas favouring instead open country with trees in which it can find nesting cavities. The parkland with aged trees in the vicinity of Wardour Castle always seems a good place to see them. They are smaller than Woodpigeons, have a glossy green band on the back of their neck and partial dark bars on their wings. In flight they look generally blue grey.
The larger Woodpigeon has a distinctive white patch on its neck, a pink breast and white wing bars which are very visible in flight. It is a familiar bird of gardens, parks woodland and farmland. Due to its monotonous call and its willingness to trample over everything in search of food, it is unpopular with gardeners, as well as a occasional agricultural pest. The noise of the males’ clashing wings battling during courtship rituals, often punctuates a summer’s day. The clatter of wings as a Woodpigeon takes off also gives warning to other wildlife of our approach, when out trying to observe wildlife undetected. In the right conditions, they can breed throughout the year, but little effort goes into nest building. It is usually a flimsy affair made of a few sticks, and users of Tisbury station will probably have noticed the unimpressive efforts made on the underside of the roof, much of which ends up on the platform. Depending on the weather, and food availability on the continent, there can be significant movements of Woodpigeons into this country in winter. At such times, massive flocks can be seen crossing the skies, an impressive sight.
by Andrew Graham
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
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