The Enchanting Wood Pigeon: Its Melodic Chirps and Exquisite Feathers. np

Identifying the type of grey bird you’ve seen can be tricky. It could be a stock dove, woodpigeon, or feral pigeon (rock dove). However, worry not, as our guide is here to assist you in telling them apart. We’ll focus on the characteristics and surroundings that are commonly linked with stock doves to help you differentiate between the species.

Stock Dove

What is the Appearance of Stock Doves?

Stock doves, which belong to the family of pigeons and doves, are quite large in size. Despite their predominantly grey-blue plumage, they bear several unique markings that assist in identification. A green-purple patch of iridescent feathers adorns their nape, extending into a pinkish chest. The wings and tail of stock doves are black-tipped, and two black bars are visible on their folded wings. Their legs are pinkish-red, and their bills are yellow with a white cere.

Male stock doves are larger than females and possess more vibrant markings. Female stock doves, on the other hand, are slightly smaller and have less vivid coloring, with darker legs and bill than males. Juvenile stock doves are both smaller and duller in appearance than adult males and females, with pale buff breast plumage and dark grey legs.


Close up of a Stock Dove

Looking at a close-up of a Stock Dove, you may wonder how big they actually are. These birds are comparable in size to feral pigeons, but have a slimmer build. They also differ from the larger and more plump woodpigeons. In terms of their body weight, female stock doves are lighter and smaller than their male counterparts. Their length ranges from 30 cm to 34 cm (12 in to 14 in), while their wingspan measures 60 cm to 70 cm (24 in to 28 in). Additionally, they weigh between 290 g to 330 g (10 oz to 12 oz).

Stock Doves are similar in size to feral pigeons, but less plump than woodpigeons

The Stock Dove is a bird that shares similar physical features with feral pigeons, although they are less plump compared to woodpigeons. These birds are generally quiet, but during the breeding season, they emit loud calls throughout the day and night while on their nests. The sounds they make consist of monosyllabic cooing and slightly louder two-note cooing from males in search of a mate.

These birds mainly feed on seeds, including flowers, grains, buds, leaves, and weeds. During the breeding season, they may occasionally forage on insects from the ground near woodlands. In winter, they could find a variety of grains such as barley, millet, wheat, and maize in agricultural areas.

When young, Stock Doves feed on “crop milk” directly regurgitated into their beaks by their parents until they can digest seeds on their own.

Stock Dove foraging on the ground in the woods

The Stock Dove can be found in various habitats depending on the season. During breeding season, they prefer to nest in mature trees found in parkland and woodlands. They also nest in rural fields and open grasslands. However, in winter, their habitat needs change and they are often found foraging on bare and uncultivated arable farmland alongside woodpigeons.

The global population of Stock Doves is estimated to be around 2.6 million birds. They can be found throughout Europe, from the British Isles and Ireland in the west, southern Scandinavia and Finland in the north, Portugal and north-west Africa in the south. They also exist in the Caucasus, northern Iran, and Central Asia as far as south-western Siberia.

The UK is home to the largest resident population of Stock Doves in Europe. Large groups can also be found in Ireland and the Netherlands. However, there have been reports of population decline in certain parts of Europe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Poland.


Stock Dove taking off for flight from the water

Have you ever seen a Stock Dove taking off for flight from the water? These birds may not be as commonly spotted in gardens or heavily urban areas as feral pigeons, but they are actually common and widespread across the UK. In fact, more than half of the European population of the species reside in Britain. You’re likely to find them present throughout the country, with particularly high concentrations in the Midlands and south-western England. However, they tend to be more wary of humans than their feral counterparts, so don’t be too surprised if you haven’t seen one up close yet!

Stock Dove foraging on the lawn, pictured from behind

The stock dove is an interesting bird species to observe. If you’re wondering about their lifespan, the typical stock dove lives for approximately three years. However, there are records of older individuals, including one that lived for nine years and two months. These birds usually start breeding at one year of age.

Unfortunately, stock doves have some predators to watch out for. Foxes are known to prey on these birds, and pine martens also take advantage of opportunistic raids on their nests. Birds of prey such as sparrowhawks and goshawks are also frequent predators of stock doves.

The good news is, stock doves are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, which prohibits their deliberate killing, injury, or capture in England and Wales. These birds have Amber status on the British Birds of Conservation Concern list since the UK is a stronghold for a significant proportion of the European population.

On a global scale, the stock dove is considered a species of least concern. However, populations in some areas of Western Europe are declining due to shrinking habitats. In the UK, however, stock dove populations remain stable, and the broader trend from 1980 to 2013 shows a moderate increase in European numbers.

Stock Dove taking a drink of water

The Stock Dove is a bird that nests and breeds in various locations. These birds are known to be cavity nesters that prefer old trees as their nesting area. In the absence of natural holes or woodpecker nests, they may also use nest boxes or crevices in buildings or abandoned rabbit burrows. The nests are built with sticks and are not the sturdiest, sometimes resulting in eggs being laid directly on the base of their cavity. The eggs of Stock Doves are glossy white with no additional markings or features. A normal clutch consists of two eggs, but if you observe nests with three to six eggs, it’s probable that more than one female has laid in the same nest. Both the male and female Stock Doves take turns incubating the eggs for about 16 to 18 days. These birds are monogamous, forming long-term pair bonds that persist beyond a single breeding season, and usually raise two broods together every year.


Nesting stock dove

A Stock Dove perched at the entrance of its nesting hole, keeping a watchful eye on its surroundings.

Stock dove squab chick

The behavior of a young Stock Dove squab, also known as a chick, is an interesting topic to explore. Despite their small size, Stock Doves can be quite aggressive when it comes to protecting their nest site. They are social creatures but also territorial and will use various aggressive displays to scare off any potential threats.

Both male and female Stock Doves chase away nearby intruders such as cats, crows, and magpies, while vocal aggression can also be heard. At night, these birds roost in the upper branches of trees in woodland areas or abandoned sheds and agricultural buildings if available.

Regarding migration, it is more common for Stock Doves in the far northern and eastern extremes of their range to migrate after the breeding season. However, populations in the west and south tend to be resident. Those that migrate from Sweden, Finland, and Eastern Europe usually head for wintering grounds in southern Portugal, Spain, France, and sites around the Mediterranean Sea.

Interestingly, Stock Doves are native to the UK, where they have around 320,000 breeding pairs that are resident all year round. They are present throughout much of the country, except for the upper north-west of Scotland and isolated patches of mountainous terrain in Wales.

Stock Dove juvenile in flight


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