Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)



Feral Pigeon © David Norman

Feral Pigeon © David Norman

Many Feral Pigeons are resident all year-round, some of them indeed breeding in almost any month, and they occupied a similar number of tetrads in both seasons. There appears to have been quite a bit of local movement, however, with 95 tetrads holding birds in the breeding season and not in winter, whilst 102 had birds wintering but not breeding. There is some shift in habitat, with 65% of winter records in human sites and 29% in farmland, and a few in semi-natural grassland or saltmarsh. This suggests that some birds leave their man-made sites, especially in rural (F3) habitats, and flock into agricultural areas. 5% of the records were from stubble fields, often of mixed flocks with Woodpigeons and Stock Doves.

Most Feral Pigeons spend their lives in flocks, and Atlas fieldworkers submitted 287 counts, with a median size of 12. Twenty-three gatherings were estimated at 100 birds or more, headed by a maximum of 500 at Fiddler’s Ferry (SJ58M) in 2005/ 06. Pigeons also gather communally to roost in a variety of places including urban buildings and farm barns; they prefer to be underneath a canopy or a bridge to keep the rain off, but in some sites they have to make do with spending the night on an exposed roof. 15 roosts were recorded during this Atlas, holding up to a maximum of 200 birds in Crewe (SJ75C).

Feral Pigeons were apparently unknown to Cheshire ornithology until a quarter-century ago. They were not mentioned by Coward (1910), Boyd (1951) or Bell (1962), or in the annual county bird reports until 1981. Since then, some large winter flocks have been reported annually, usually 100 or more in most town centres or stubble or slurried fields. In Arctic weather on 9 January 1988, 1,500 birds took to feeding on the saltmarsh at the Gayton Sands RSPB reserve.

Few of the larger landbirds excite birdwatchers (gamebirds, pigeons and doves and corvids) but they constitute the majority of the country’s avian biomass and we should do our best to record as much as we can about them. Feral Pigeons are certainly not everyone’s favourite bird, and probably still under-recorded as a result, but this Atlas provides the most comprehensive assessment ever of their status in the county.

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