Wood Pigeons

I  was staying on a camp site at Freshwater East, Pembrokeshire, in early June this year.

The Ash trees were just coming into leaf and those around us  had most of  the new growth eaten off.  The damage was caused by wood pigeons, I watched them eating  the new shoots.

I have never seen this behaviour before and I've spent a lot of time with Ash trees and pigeons.

Is this behaviour common anywhere else?

  • Hi Dafydd,

    Woodpigeons eat a wide variety of plant material not just seeds. Buds, new leaves and shoots are definitely on the menu and they will eat quite a lot. Most of the trees regenerate quickly though so this damage shouldn't be that obvious in a few weeks time.

    Warden Intern at Otmoor.

  • In reply to IanH:

    A friend has a small orchard of some rarer varieties of fruit trees and the weight of Wood Pigeons on the thin branches has broken some off,luckily he is also a keen birder so they are quite safe even if they do some damage.


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • In reply to Seaman:

    I believe they are particularly fond of the new growth on Beech trees.


  • This thread was begun before Ash dieback (Chalara) was a problem. But I am wondering whether we should be less tolerant of pigeon damage now, lest they should give the coup de grace to a struggling tree that is partially resistant and might otherwise survive.

    I manage an allotment site in Bristol; it is unusual in having ~40 ash trees over 30' tall; about 15 are 60-70'. Dieback signs began last year and things look worse this (2022) Spring.

    Yesterday I was stood underneath one of the worse affected big ones, watching 7 wood pigeons in the one tree going from fresh sprout to fresh sprout and picking them off. There is no doubt that for the number of sprouts now remaining and the tree's limited capacity to raise sap to fuel new ones, this is non-trivial damage.

    I have heard experienced tree people say that some ash trees can become resistant after having quite severe damage: I've no idea whether this is true, and have not been able readily to validate it online. But Ash trees are as important as were Elms, and it would be a tragedy if pigeons were to be their final straw.
  • In reply to Stephen Pill:

    Ash Dieback was identified as early as February 2012, this thread started July 2012..

    I think before we blame the pigeons for damage, we first need to look at getting our own house in order.

    For too long man has just gone on aimlessly and creating problems to which nature has had to adapt to.

    Whether you like it or not, pigeons are a part of nature, manicured gardens (always nice to view) and endless urban sprawl is not, and they have learned to adapt quite well to the situations we leave them in, and in turn, its biting human society back.

    We can't blame to poor pigeon for ash dieback, for among other possibile transmission sources, it is predominantly carried on the wind.


    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • Pigeons, especially Wood Pigeons, seem to be able to adapt to most things that the countryside throws at them. When I was a teenager farmers would organise a Pigeon shoot or two as soon as the crops were showing through. Everyone in the village who could legally and safely use a shotgun was invited along to help keep the numbers down, Great for us youngsters and pigeon pie was on many a menu for a while. While this would not be tolerated nowadays it did seem to keep the numbers down for a while but the beggars are fast breeders. Our good old town/feral pigeon thrives very well on what we litter our streets with, where do we lay the blame for that ? Blaming pigeons for Ash Die Back is maybe pushing things a bit far.


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • I’m not sure this discussion about ash trees and pigeons is being framed correctly. I don’t think it’s a matter of blaming the pigeons for ash dieback but rather blaming on ash dieback what is in fact the systematic work of wood pigeons.

    I’m a life member of the RSPB and would never harm any bird; similarly I love and value trees. I speak here of what I have observed over the last 5-7 years, that is, in a neighbouring champion ash tree every spring and early summer there can be 20-30 wood pigeons systematically nipping off the leaves at the end of each branch and either eating them or carrying them off to their nests. This year the pigeons have been doing the same to a prunus autumnalis in our garden and have stripped a quarter of its branches completely. A neighbour tells me they have completely stripped a plum tree in her garden. In the last 2 weeks the wood pigeons seem to have abated this behaviour. The ash tree meanwhile has now been declared to have ash dieback and is condemned to be felled. There are no blackened shoots on the ends of its branches which is supposed to be the sign of ash dieback, and now the wood pigeons have reduced their stripping activity, the tree is showing a more healthy amount of leaf cover.

    Is pigeon damage being sufficiently taken into account when assessing the health of trees, including ash? I observe both the tree and the wood pigeons day in day out; I’d love to know of scientific studies which are doing the same and the results they are obtaining.
  • In reply to A lifer:

    We probably have misread your initial reply, particularly as we do see quite a few posts where people are genuinely not converse with nature.

    Regarding your last para, I have no idea whether pigeon damage is being considered, though someone somewhere may have the answer to that.

    As already mentioned, pigeons do have this incredible knack of adapting to any situation they inhabit, not helped by human habitations fuelling their adaptation. As you will be aware, pigeons as with any bird or animal, will seek out what they can to make the nest/den as cosy and habitable as possible for rearing the young, and if that means collecting leaves from any tree, then that is what they will do.


    Flickr Peak Rambler