Woodpigeons top the pecking order in local gardens

01 Aug 2011 | No. 2011-33

The dumpy Woodpigeon visits a greater percentage of gardens in the West Midlands than in any other county, latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch reveal. This attractive but divisive guest is now the region’s most commonly seen garden bird.

During an average week in 2010, 93%
of West Midlands gardens hosted a Woodpigeon

During an average week in 2010, 93% of West Midlands gardens hosted a Woodpigeon, more than in any other British or Irish county. Incredibly, this portly bird is now seen more often by local householders than even the familiar Blackbird, Blue Tit and Robin. These striking findings have emerged thanks to the simple observations of hundreds of local householders who participate weekly in the year-round BTO Garden BirdWatch survey.

Typically a bird of the wider countryside, BTO data show that Woodpigeons are enjoying life alongside humans more and more. Their enjoyment, however, is not always reciprocated. Despite their gentle appearance, comprising of a warm pallet of grey and pink and a smart white neck collar, Woodpigeons are not always welcomed by householders. One Woodpigeon can eat about the same amount of food as seven sparrows and so the arrival of this species often heralds the rapid disappearance of expensive bird food!

The extensive suburban areas found within the conurbations of the West Midlands are likely to suit Woodpigeons well, with a widespread availability of garden bird foods supporting them. Recent changes in farming practices have been linked to increases in their population size more generally and this swell in numbers may have spilt over into local gardens. Woodpigeon numbers are continuing to increase this year with pairs breeding well into autumn.

It is not just Woodpigeons that are doing well locally. The stunning Bullfinch, with its glossy black cap and, in the male, salmon-pink breast, visited 27% of West Midlands gardens during an average week in 2010, second only to gardens in nearby Derbyshire. The sleek black and white plumage of the Magpie was also a familiar sight, with only Surrey gardens visited more often.

Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer, commented: “Householders can take a number of steps to reduce the amount of bird food that is plundered by Woodpigeons. A good option is to use a feeder guardian, which is a metal cage through which smaller birds – such as Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds – can come and go to feed but larger birds – such as Woodpigeons and Collared Doves – are excluded.”

Mark Hope-Urwin, BTO Garden BirdWatch Ambassador for the West Midlands, added, "Local Citizen Scientists have revealed these stunning new results. BTO Garden BirdWatch is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world with over 300 participants in the West Midlands alone. As autumn draws closer, the BTO is encouraging more householders to try the survey by requesting a free ‘taster’ pack. Whether people watch garden birds for 10 minutes or 10 hours during most weeks, they can make a valuable contribution.”

Give BTO Garden BirdWatch a go by requesting a free three-week ‘taster’ pack: email gbw [at] bto.org or telephone 01842 750050.

Notes for Editors

  1. Woodpigeon: percentage of gardens visited during an average week in 2010 - please see table below.

Gardens occupied (%)
West Midlands

  1. Analyses: Data presented are from BTO Garden BirdWatch in 2010. British and Irish counties were included if 40 or more householders submitted records during every week of the year.
  2. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.Visit www.bto.org
  3. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw

Contact information

Tim Harrison
(Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
Email: gbw [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2011-33

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview. Office: 01842 750050

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