Friday, 24 July 2009

Woodpigeons keep on nesting

The Woodpigeons are nesting again, this time back in the Holly tree above the chicken run. It seems to be a never ending process; nesting attempt follows nesting attempt, with most doomed to failure, a seemingly dismal cycle of poor parenting. That the Woodpigeons should fail so often could reflect the density of cats, many of which stalk this urban area, but I don’t think that this is the whole story. With just two eggs per nesting attempt and a pitiful excuse for a nest, these birds just don’t seem to have it in them to make a proper go of it. While other species build well constructed and intricate nests deep within cover, the pigeons seem to just sling a few small twigs together somewhere obvious and hope that this will suffice. More often than not, I find the eggs smashed on the ground beneath the nest, the result of a windy day, a lack of robustness in the nest’s construction or a clumsy parent.

The surprising thing is that these birds are doing so well, with a population that has gone through the roof over recent years, thanks largely to changing agricultural practices. You cannot move for Woodpigeons; even here in town they dominate the bird community, hoovering up food from bird tables or delivering a monotonous dawn chorus with their ‘take two cows, taffy’ call. It would be fine if they were attractive, elegant even, but they come across as clumsy, overweight and, let’s be honest, rather dim. To see a Woodpigeon attempt to perch on a hanging feedeer reveals a triumph of determination over brains. However, there is one thing that Woodpigeons do which does suggest some initiative. When it rains they line up on the fence and each bird raises first one wing then the other high above their head, allowing the raindrops to wash the underside of the wing.

The increase in Woodpigeon numbers may be having a knock-on effect on another monotonous songster, the Collared Dove, whose numbers locally seem to have taken something of a dip over the period that the Woodpigeons have been on the increase. The doves are a rare visitor to our garden feeding station these days, seemingly ousted by a succession of pigeons that waddle around on the ground beneath the feeders or clamber in a most comical manner over the Hebe in search of fallen seed. I guess that I have a grudging respect for them; that they have been able to increase their numbers despite their seeming inadequacies suggests they must be doing something right. I think it must be a combination of persistence and adaptability that has served them so well.

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