The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Pigeons and doves

Photo: collared doves

Photo: collared doves

I’ve always liked pigeons. When I was at university at Hull in the seventies, I lived next door to a pigeon fancier. Northern England is the mecca of pigeon breeding and racing, although there are pigeon fanciers all over the UK.

Each evening my neighbour would let his pigeons out for exercise. As one they would fly in a giant wave above the houses and disperse in large groups in different directions. They would curl back to rejoin the group and then leave again. Some pigeons always stayed in this hub. Were they the leaders or the followers? I had no idea.

When I was working in London I enjoyed watching the pigeons there. I was probably in a minority of one as most office blocks wired their window sills to detract “the vermin”. There were some pathetic specimens but pigeons are survivors and I admired their determination.

At boarding school one of the sounds of summer was wood pigeons calling for a mate at dawn. Forty years later we are serenaded by wood pigeon at the cottage. They nest in our mini orchard and in the willow tree at the front of the cottage. Even though the brassicas need to be protected – pigeon are partial to the young leaves – I still love hearing their mellow calls.

A few days ago I spotted a couple of wood pigeon canoodling on the apex of our roof. This was not the expected fluffing up of feathers dance. Each took turns and time to trace their beak gently over the head of the other. It was a touching and very special moment that I happened on by chance. I was enthralled. Perhaps one of the pigeons was Einstein, finally having found a new mate.

Meanwhile a pretty pair of collared doves are living in the cottage garden. They have been feeding here for months. I spotted them on the roof this evening. Not canoodling just staring into the middle distance like statues.

I crept into to grab my camera. When returned to the garden they had moved and  communication was taking place. But nothing like the pigeons. In fact it looks as if one dove is being told off.

Do you remember being in love and eating in a good restaurant? Quite often I’d see an older couple eating a few feet away in heavy silence. Our doves remind me of these silent couples. There’s probably a twinge of love but not passion.

Meanwhile the dreaded “vermin” pigeon are the ones that are having fun and delighting us with their delicate and rapt attention to each other.

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  1. Wendy

    I have been watching my resident pair of wood pidgeons in my garden. They do this strange “jumping over each other” type of behaviour. Is this part of their normal courtship? or were having a domestic?

  2. amber

    cool! they fall down your chimney?!? I want some!
    there are pidgeons in the town we live close to but none by our house 🙁 I do have a pet dove though, and he/she (strangely enough, it’s both) is wonderful! I get greeted every morning with coos and it’s funny laugh.
    zoe amber

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Amber

      Falilng dowm the chimney is not so good as they panic when they find that they are enclosed. Smutty wing marks on ceilings and walls. Great for decorators like me but not so good if you own the house/flat.

      But in the country pigeons are mellow.

  3. kate (uk)

    Pigeons,well, if you like them I shall pack my 7 regularly visiting woodpigeons up in a box and send them to you. They drive me bonkers- falling down the chimney on a weekly basis, laying eggs on the roof ( oh yes, who needs a nest?) so they drop on you as you leave the back door, crash landing and taking off into flower beds and smashing the plants to bits, flying in through conservatory windows or walking in through the door many times a day and creating havoc…no, not a fan of woodpigeons. Collared doves though are delightful. Perhaps my Woodpigeons are particularly dim?

  4. Pamela

    I have mixed feelings about pigeons. In the small town where I live the pigeons have been living the life of luxury in a couple of derelict buildings which they acces through the broken windows. However over 12 months ago they were evicted from their town centre lodgings and, whilst they have obviously found alternative accommodation, they apparently still hanker after the old life. A few weeks ago I was ironing in the spare room and had the window open, which was obviously tantamount to an open invitation, as I looked up to see a pigeon land and have a good look in. It took a lot of noise and arm waving from me to scare it off! This was not the first pigeon visitor I have had, previous visitors have been more successful! Consequently I have to be very careful how wide I open my windows.

  5. Joanna

    Not so sure I am a fan, they are fluttering about as I write and they are nesting in the holes that are above our apartment, I think they are ventilation holes for the roof. It makes a right mess of the roof space above us and the droppings can be rather a nuisance. Having said that I was fascinated with their dances of courtship in Denmark as they used to use the fence at the bottom of our garden.

  6. nadia

    i loved this post for so many reasons! firstly the photo which is lovely. then for reading that you, too, studied at hull! me too! hoorah! our sweet cleaning lady in halls in the first year kept pigeons and often told us about their races! and when i go home to visit my mum i always here the wood pigoen cooing down the chimney. it’s a sound i often wake up to in the morning when there. and a great sound too.

    have a good day, nadia

  7. Domestic Executive

    I’m with you on the delight of pigeons. Some of them can have real characters. I’ve been on a bird photography frenzy recently and enjoyed getting close up to some pigeons and gulls.

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