Stock Dove

Easily overlooked as just another pigeon, the Stock Dove is the secret agent hiding in plain sight. Looking the same, but subtly different. The Stock Dove is smaller than the similar-looking Woodpigeon, though without the white patches on its wings or neck and no pale rump. They are mainly found in large gardens, parkland and avenues of old trees where there is water nearby to drink. In the winter, if you see a flock of Rooks or Jackdaws on the ground, take a closer look at the pigeons as some of these can be sneaky Stock Doves.

Like the Woodpigeon, they are blue grey with a purple sheen on their neck and a pinkish breast. They have grey wings with short black bars and dark edges. There is no white on their wings when flying. Their call is different too. It is an "ooo-wah" unlike the Woodpigeon's more familiar "take two cows taffy". The Stock Dove is a bit of a veggie, eating mainly plant material like seeds, buds and leaves.

To attract a female, the male Stock Dove performs a display flight, flying in large circles with wings held in a shallow V. He then lands on the ground, puffs out his chest, and calls while bowing to the female like some Elizabethan courtier. The Stock Dove is unique amongst pigeons because it nests in holes in trees, cliff faces, and even rabbit burrows. They lay 2 eggs at different times, which both parents incubate. Each egg hatches after 16 days. The youngsters are fed by mum and dad and can fly at 25 days, becoming independent soon afterwards. They can have two or more broods in a year as, like other pigeons, they have their top secret crop milk.

The Stock Dove is mainly resident with 260,000 pairs and is found everywhere except in northern Scotland. Over half of the European Stock Dove population lives in the UK. A few of the European birds will pop over in the winter to further increase numbers and exchange spy stories. The oldest ringed bird lived to be 12 years old. Unlike the Woodpigeon, the Stock Dove is protected. Long ago people were not so nice to the poor Stock Dove. In East Anglia, occupied rabbit holes were covered up with crossed sticks so that the parent Stock Dove could feed their chicks, but the chicks could not leave the nest. They were then taken - for the pot - when they were nice and fat. That's Fennies for you.

Their Latin name is 'columba oenas'. The 'columba' is derived from the Ancient Greek 'kolumbos' meaning a 'diver' because of its swimming motion in the air and the 'oenas' means 'pigeon'. The English name comes from an old word 'stocc' meaning 'stake or tree trunk'. Therefore, Stock Dove is a dove which lives in hollow trees.


The commonest of the pigeons, fatty Woodpigeon is largely blue grey with a small head, broad wings that have a white crescent which is clearly visible in flight, a white neck patch, a black band on the tail and a pinkish bulging chest. Their neck also has a green and purple sheen. The young Woodpigeon is similar but without the white on their neck.

It takes quite a lot of effort for the porky Woodpigeon to get airborne, and in so-doing their wings clap behind their backs as they try to create as much down-draught as possible. They can't fly through small gaps so they don't even try to and simply clatter through the leaves and branches making a big din. In some parts of the country the Woodpigeon has become known as the 'clatter dove' or 'fatso' for short. When in trees, they often sit motionless for hours (because they are so full) and then go and poo on your car.

The Woodpigeon shouts, "Take two bowls laddie, take two bowls laddie, take two!" to make sure they get enough to eat which is why the sparrows chase fatty pigeon off whenever they can. They are mainly veggie and love seeds, cabbage (ugh), clover, and peas. Farmers and gardeners don't like Woodpigeons because they eat all the seedlings and are a serious pest. They can travel long distances to find a decent menu.

Amazingly, they breed all the year round, though July to September is their favourite time when there is plenty of food around. They can nest just about anywhere, including McDonald's. The male shows off to the female by flying up into the air and clapping his wings before gliding back down with his tail spread. This might, if he is lucky, lead to a period of billing and cooing. They build a flimsy nest of twigs and lay one or two eggs which hatch after 17 days. The young (called squabs) are fed for the next 8 days on 'crop milk' (like the Collared Dove) which is extremely nutritious. The young are then left on their own as mum and dad have had enough of being parents and fancy going off for a good takeaway instead. The young finally fly at 30 days but this can be variable depending on whether the nest is disturbed. They normally have 2 broods as any more would interfere too much with chow time.

The Woodpigeon is resident all year and often moves about in big communal roosts, particularly in winter. These large flocks can be seen moving to feeding areas and McDonald's fly throughs. Some Scandinavian pigeons come over in the winter as the takeouts here are better. There are 5 million birds in Britain and the numbers are stable because, being big and fat, the Woodpigeon has few enemies which may account for their success. The Latin name is ’columba palumbus’ where ’palumbus’ means 'woodpigeon' (as opposed to ’plumbus’ which means lead i.e. heavy) and ’columba’ means to dive or to plunge headlong (from their courting display or the way they sometimes fly).

Collared Dove

The football supporter of birds. A big fan of 'the reds' and, when possible, hangs out at Old Trafford. The Collared Dove is a neat, soft plumaged sandy-grey dove with a narrow black collar (where the supporter's scarf has rubbed), The Collared Dove is found on TV aerials, roofs, and football stadiums. It is not found much in trees as the view of the pitch from there is rubbish. They loudly chant "U-nite-ed, u-nite-ed, u-nite-ed!". From below, when flying, they show a broad white band at the base of the tail. They are not big fans of city centres (as there are too many hooligans) or mountainous areas (as there aren't many pitches).

The Collared Dove feeds on the ground enjoying a mainly veggie diet of grain, berries and grasses, favouring oats on colder match days. They prefer feeding on a bird table to a bird feeder.

When showing off to the girls in their display flight, the Collared Doves fly up and then glide down on spread wings, doing a perfect footballer's dive.

The nest is a delicate, thin structure of twigs, so thin that you can sometimes see the eggs through it from below! They can lay eggs anytime from February to October, which is a long breeding season. The female lays only 2 eggs but, because of the long breeding season, may have up to 5 broods in a year. The young hatch after 14 days and fly after another 14 days. They go off to watch footie about a week later. The young are fed on 'crop milk' which the parents regurgitate from special glands in their crops (a pouch near their throat). This is what allows them to raise young for such a long period when food is more scarce.

The Collared Dove is now a common resident following a rapid spread across Britain in the second half of the 20th century. There are about 1 million birds in the UK which is quite a supporters' club! They came up from Spain and the east where they were once Barcelona fans and then saw the light. The oldest known bird lived to be 16 and saw no less than four European championships.

The Latin name is ’streptopelia decaocto’. ’Streptopelia’ sounds like a nasty bacteria but is from the Ancient Greek ’streptos’ meaning 'collar' and ’peleia’ meaning 'dove'. The ’decaocto’ bit is from the Latin for 'eighteen' (deca = 10, octo = 8). The number comes from a Greek myth. A maid was unhappy that she was only paid 18 pieces a year and begged the gods to let the world know how little her mean mistress rewarded her. Thereupon Zeus created this dove for her. She was a bit miffed when it then went off to watch the footie.