Types of pigeon in UK

Types of Pigeons – A Guide to the UK’s Various Breeds

Pigeons (Columbidae) are more diverse and intriguing than one might assume. Mention pigeons, and most people picture the ubiquitous rock dove scrounging around city squares. Yet, there exist over 300 distinct types of pigeons globally, with a notable variety thriving in the UK. Exploring these types of pigeons can open your eyes to their remarkable differences and roles.

In the UK, various pigeon breeds have adapted to diverse environments, each exhibiting peculiar traits and habits. Take the elegant Fantail, flaunting its lavish plumage, or the robust Racing Homer, renowned for its speed and stamina. Fascinatingly, pigeons served as vital message carriers during World War I and II, relaying critical information across enemy lines. Let’s take a closer look into the intriguing world of pigeons and uncover the array of species gracing the UK.

Most Common Types of Pigeons in the UK

When exploring the types of pigeons in the UK, it’s essential to note the subtle differences between pigeons and doves, as the terms are often used interchangeably. Pigeons are generally larger and have a rounder body, while doves are smaller with a slender build.

Rock Dove

Rock dove pigeon breed

The rock pigeon, a frequent sight in urban environments and countryside alike, stands out with its unique appearance and versatile nature. Typically adorned in blue-grey feathers with distinctive black bars on each wing, these pigeons create a captivating visual contrast. Their eyes, often orange or red, add an intense flair. They have a sturdy build, short legs, and an iridescent neck patch that gleams green and purple in the light. Celebrated for their impressive homing instincts, these birds can navigate vast distances back to their nests. They are also the breed which is seen as a common pest bird due to their large numbers in urban settings. This species’ adaptability and hardiness make it an intriguing figure across diverse settings.

Stock Dove

Stock Dove pigeon breed
The stock dove, frequently mistaken for its more common relatives, boasts a subtle yet striking appearance that sets it apart. With a bluish-grey plumage, stock doves have a softer, almost pastel quality to their feathers, which are devoid of the black wing bars seen on rock pigeons. Instead, they feature a distinct green iridescent patch on their neck that shimmers in the sunlight. Their eyes are dark and expressive, complementing their overall gentle demeanour. Unlike the more urban rock pigeon, the stock dove prefers wooded areas and open countryside, often nesting in tree hollows or old buildings. Known for their soft, almost melancholic cooing, these birds exhibit a shy but resilient nature, making them a quiet yet enchanting presence in their chosen habitats.

Wood Pigeon

Wood pigeon
The wood pigeon stands out as the largest and most colourful of the UK’s pigeon species. Its plumage is primarily a soft grey, but it’s the distinct white patches on its neck and wings that truly catch the eye, especially when in flight. Possessing a robust body and a soothing cooing call, the wood pigeon often inhabits woodland edges, farmlands, and parks, but are also often found in town settings and back gardens. Wood pigeons are known for their more relaxed presence, often seen calmly foraging for seeds, berries, and crops. Their characteristic slow, rhythmic wingbeats and the distinctive clapping sound they make during take-off are signature traits that further distinguish them within their serene environments.

Band-Tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed pigeon breed
The band-tailed pigeon is a striking and robust bird, easily identifiable by its unique features. Its plumage is a sleek bluish-grey, with a distinctive white crescent on the nape of its neck, adding a touch of elegance. The name comes from the dark band at the tip of its tail, which contrasts with the lighter grey of its body. These pigeons also boast a subtle iridescence on their neck feathers, shimmering with green and purple hues. Their eyes are encircled by a narrow ring of red skin, enhancing their alert expression. Typically found in forested areas and mountain regions, the band-tailed pigeon has a strong, direct flight pattern and is known for its gentle, cooing calls. Preferring a diet of acorns, berries, and other nuts, these birds exhibit both resilience and adaptability in their habitats.

Collared Dove

Collared Dove
The collared dove is a graceful and slender bird, easily recognised by its distinctive appearance. Its plumage is a soft, creamy beige with a subtle pinkish hue on the chest. The most notable feature of the collared dove is the narrow black band, or “collar,” around the back of its neck, which contrasts beautifully with its otherwise light feathers. Their eyes are a deep red, adding a touch of intensity. These doves often inhabit suburban areas, parks, and gardens. Their flight is fast and direct, with occasional graceful glides. The collared dove’s adaptability and calm nature make it a charming and familiar presence in many environments.

Turtle Dove

Turtle dove pigeon breed
The turtle dove is a small, elegant bird, easily distinguished by its beautiful and intricate appearance. Its plumage features a delicate blend of soft browns and greys, with distinctive black-and-white striped patches on the sides of its neck, resembling a turtle’s shell pattern—hence its name. The wings are mottled with chestnut and buff, creating a stunning contrast to its predominantly grey body. Turtle doves have striking red eyes and legs, adding a vibrant splash. Known for their soft, purring calls, these birds often inhabit open woodlands, farmlands, and hedgerows. Their diet mainly consists of seeds and grains. The turtle dove’s graceful flight and evocative song have long made it a symbol of peace and love in various cultures, though unfortunately, they are now considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and declining numbers.

Knowing the Difference Between a Feral Pigeon and Wood Pigeon

Identifying the differences between a feral pigeon and a wood pigeon is crucial for effective pest control. Feral pigeons, prevalent in urban environments, exhibit varied plumage due to mixed ancestry but generally appear more dishevelled with blue-grey tones and occasional iridescent neck feathers.

They are smaller and more compact, lacking the pronounced chest of wood pigeons. In contrast, wood pigeons are larger and sturdier, with smooth grey feathers accented by white patches on the neck and wings, and an iridescent sheen. Feral pigeons thrive in cities, scavenging food scraps and nesting on buildings, often causing significant mess and structural damage. They are also disease carriers so an infestation should be dealt with quickly to protect the health of residents or commercial staff and customers.

On the other hand, wood pigeons prefer rural or semi-rural habitats like woodlands and farmland, feeding mainly on seeds and berries. The wood pigeon’s deep, rhythmic coo differs from the feral pigeon’s varied calls. Understanding these distinctions is essential for implementing targeted and effective pest control strategies tailored to each species’ behaviour and habitat preferences.

Domestic Pigeons

Domestic pigeons exhibit a fascinating variety of breeds, each possessing unique characteristics and traits that have been selectively bred over generations. Here are some notable types of domestic pigeons:

Homing Pigeon

Homing pigeons, also known as carrier pigeons, are celebrated for their unparalleled navigational abilities and strong homing instinct. Known for their endurance and speed, these pigeons were historically used to carry messages across long distances. Today, they are often bred and trained for pigeon racing, a sport that highlights their remarkable ability to find their way home over vast distances.

Fantail Pigeon

Fantail pigeon
The fantail pigeon is distinguished by its exuberant tail feathers, which fan out in a spectacular display resembling that of a peacock. This breed comes in various colours, from pure white to mottled patterns. Originally bred mainly for ornamental purposes, fantails are a popular choice for pigeon fanciers due to their striking appearance and gentle nature.

Jacobin Pigeon

Jacobin pigeons are notable for their head crest, forming a distinct hood around their head, which cloaks their face. This unique feature gives them a regal and somewhat mysterious look. These pigeons come in various hues and patterns and are primarily bred for exhibition rather than utility.

King Pigeon

King pigeons are robust and heavy, developed primarily for meat production. They boast a large, plump body and stand upright, projecting a strong and powerful presence. These pigeons come in various colours and are often kept both for meat and as pets due to their calm and docile temperament.

Modena Pigeon

Modena Pigeon
Modenas are known for their elegant and compact bodies with a proud posture, short beaks, and broad chests. Originating from Italy, they are primarily bred for their striking looks, exhibited in a wide array of colour patterns. Modenas are a favourite among show pigeon enthusiasts.

Tumbler Pigeon

Tumbler pigeons are famous for their acrobatic flight patterns, which include flipping and performing somersaults in the air. This breed is available in many varieties, including the Birmingham Roller, which is especially prized for its ability to perform rapid backward somersaults while flying in a tight formation.

Common Facts About Pigeons

  1. Global Distribution: Pigeons are found all over the world, with a remarkable ability to adapt to various climates and environments, from bustling cities to remote rural areas.
  2. Exceptional Navigators: Pigeons have an extraordinary sense of direction, often using the Earth’s magnetic fields, the position of the sun, and even sense of smell to navigate back to their nests over long distances.
  3. Rapid Reproduction: Pigeons breed year-round, and a healthy pair can produce up to ten offspring annually, making them one of the most successful bird species in terms of population growth.
  4. Strong Social Bonds: Pigeons often form monogamous pairs for life and are highly social, living in flocks where they engage in communal activities such as feeding and grooming.
  5. Diverse Diet: While primarily granivores, feeding on seeds and grains, pigeons in urban areas have adapted to eat a wide variety of human-provided food, including bread, popcorn, and even junk food.
  6. Impressive Flight Speed: Pigeons can fly at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and cover over 600 miles in a single day, showcasing their endurance and speed.
  7. Intelligent Creatures: Research has shown that pigeons are highly intelligent, capable of recognising human faces, solving problems, and even understanding abstract concepts like time and space.
  8. Long Lifespan: While the average lifespan of a wild pigeon is around 3-5 years, domestic pigeons can live up to 15 years or more with proper care, making them long-term companions for enthusiasts.

How to Identify a Breed of Pigeon

Effectively addressing a pigeon pest problem hinges on correctly identifying the pigeon breed. Enlisting a professional’s expertise can greatly facilitate this process.

Pigeon breeds display various characteristics in size, coloration, feather patterns, and behaviours, impacting their nesting habits and susceptibilities. As professionals we can examine key features like plumage colour and markings, body shape, beak size, and eye colour to identify the breed.

Knowing if you’re dealing with feral pigeons, prevalent in cities, or wood pigeons, usually found in rural areas, helps customise our pigeon control strategy and offer insights into the most effective deterrents and methods tailored to the identified breed, ensuring a precise and successful solution to the pigeon problem.

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