“We only get pigeons!”

If I had a pound for every time someone says “We only get pigeons!” when I try engage them in my passion for birding I might have had enough to fill the car with petrol. Nevertheless pigeons are considered a nuisance in public areas and we are discouraged from feeding them. If that had been the rule on Trafalgar Square in 1964 then Mary Poppins would have needed a serious re-write. ‘Feed the Birds, tuppence a bag?” I don’t think so. But this much maligned species deserves a closer look.

This week I have added some more tree branches to the feeding station to make more natural looking perches for photographing the birds. The users so far have been mostly pigeons but if you take a closer look at them the variety and beauty of their plumage may surprise you. These are all Feral pigeons. It is only in the last few years that many of them have ventured into the garden, possibly as a result of the discouragement of feeding in public places. Even in this small sample you can spot some differences.

These are all feral pigeon visitors to our garden. I have seen one with the light brown colouring from time to time but this week two identical ones paid a visit (top left). I posted this image on Twitter (@beestonbirdman) where it generated quite a lot of interest. The commonest colouration is the all over grey plumage in various shades with patches of green and purple sheen. I see apure white example only rarely.

These are Stock Doves which are much less common than feral pigeons. With overall grey/blue plumage and their trademark iridescent green patch these birds usually arrive in the garden in ones and twos.

Two views of a Wood Pigeon. The second image was taken today on our newly installed luxury bird table. They are generally a bit plumper than the other ‘pigeons’ and, in the mature birds, the white collar is a distinctive feature.

The Collared Dove is the last of the ‘pigeons’ in this posting. A more delicate member of the family like the stock dove it tends to be seen in ones and twos. The plumage is a soft blend of buff and grey with some dark feathers on the wing. The black collar is a defining feature of this lovely bird.

I hope this posting has made you think twice and look closer when you see one of these birds rather than dismissing them all with “It’s only a pigeon!” Another distinguishing feature of this family of birds can be found by looking at the eye. Some of them are very different. Can you match these eyes to the correct bird? I’ve hidden the answers in one of the pictures above. 😎

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