Unlike the young of most other garden birds, pigeon chicks – or ‘squabs’ as they are called – are rarely seen. This is because squabs stay in the nest for a long time, 4 -6 weeks in fact, until they look just like their adult parents. The distinguishing appearance between an adult and a juvenile is the white neck ring, which the juvenile acquires at around 16 weeks of age.
These two are sitting quietly on their nest in a branch engulfed by honey suckle just a meter from our patio doors. They were quite well hidden when the honeysuckle flowers were in bloom, however now that the flowers have died they are in full view.
I gently brought down one of the squabs to show his size to the camera. Their chests are so poofy and their beaks are so weirdly shaped. They are covered in a yellow down which they lose before leaving the nest. Chicks younger than these two look much weirder as they are covered in this yellow down with few feathers. I suppose they are rather ugly but I kind of like how odd they look.
Wood pigeons lay no more than two white eggs upon their nest which is effectively a platform of twigs. The other interesting aspect of a pigeon’s breeding behaviour is that they nest pretty much any time of the year. Records show they have been known to next in the depths of winter, and I believe it. We have many wood pigeons in the wood and I’ve seen them building nests all year around.
The adults in the wood are often seen fighting. They attack each other with swift flaps of their wings at each other. Most mornings we are awoken by two pigeons fighting along the ridge of the roof. They are extremely heavy footed and their wing-clapping is also very loud as they fight.
Hopefully these two squabs will be used to being in close proximity to us and will grow up to not shy away when we are outside. Sadly, many young pigeons don’t survive their first year however, hopefully, these two youngsters will have a good chance if they hang around where we feed the birds.
Feature image source: Marie Hale