Something that’s changed

Over the years. At the parentals in suburban Bath. And thirty years ago around here if you saw a pigeon it was one of the aerial rats that infest city centres. Just seen a pair today and they’re great big fat wood pigeons. Same species, sure, but very different animals all the same.

Something sure has changed in the countryside/suburban areas.

28 thoughts on “Something that’s changed”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    Someone has been culling the aerial rats? They got a falcon in?

    It is probably something fairly obvious. And not a lack of young people puking their dinners up late at night in the city centre. I expect that is still very popular and hence there is lots of food around.

  2. Cue headlines in the press about the “pigeon obesity crisis” followed by comments from So Much For Subtlety about how the only pigeons left are lardy trash who don’t go to church.

  3. Woodpigeons, those 747s of the avian world, have discovered that since the rise of the Garden Centre, urban gardens now provide a lot more food and shelter than they ever did. In darkest Finsbury Park, for example, many of the gardens are now luxuriant groves of trees and shrubs, where thirty years ago they were polluted patches of multi-occupied trampled earth. Even the streets now have mature trees grown huge among the paving stones, planted as saplings after a campaign by the gentrifying residents.

    You now have the paradox that many inner-city areas have greater fertility and biodiversity than parts of the monoculture countryside. Cleaner air, gardening programmes, the concept of rus in urbe, are all to blame.

  4. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “Cue headlines in the press about the “pigeon obesity crisis” followed by comments from So Much For Subtlety about how the only pigeons left are lardy trash who don’t go to church.”

    It is worse than that because aren’t the aerial rats actually feckless European immigrants? So they are coming here, taking all the wood pigeon’s jobs as well as being lardy arsed Godless heathens.

    At least I have always thought so. Could be wrong. I was going to check and I came across this wonderful little illustration of what is wrong with modern Britain:

    Killing or injuring pigeons

    Under UK jurisdiction, anyone who injures or kills a pigeon will be dealt with according to the Wildlife Act and Countryside 1981 to injure, kill, or destroy nest.

    According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act—in respect of a single bird, nest, or egg—is a fine of up to £5000, and/or six months’ imprisonment.

    Population control

  5. The “scrounging urban flying rat” niche in Australia’s city is now filled by a native species of ibis. When I was a child (30+ years ago, alas) these were not seem in cities. Now they are everywhere – nasty, smelly things that foreigners find quite entertaining the first time.

    Nobody has the slightest idea what exactly changed to cause this, but something must have.

  6. I can promise you I’m not a twitcher, but I have these birds living in my central Edinburgh tenement back garden (an enclosed rectangle):

    Wood pigeons, magpies, crows (I think, could be ravens or some other corbies), blackbirds, sparrows, wrens, blue tits, great tits, bullfinches (a few others like this I can’t identify), woodpecker, robins, chaffinches. Unfortunately, also herring gulls on the roofs. Also a bat at dusk – only ever seen one bat at a time, but I assume they fly around in shifts.

  7. Woodpigeons have gained a lot from an increase in garden bird feeders and oilseed rape. In the garden particularly they are probably the largest visitor and so can bully other birds out of the way.

    Streets are probably a bit cleaner than they used to be so less for the scavenging rock dove (pigeon) to feed on.

  8. We were speculating recently about their size: not just tucker, we thought, but possibly a bit of evolution too.

  9. Not the same species. Wood pigeons are Columba palumbus; city centre pigeons are usually Columba livia.


  10. 2 Lbs pigeon (4)
    4 oz onion (1)
    2 oz carrot (1)
    3 oz leek (½)
    garlic (3 cloves)
    3 bay leaves
    some parsley stalks
    half a pint red wine
    3 tablespoons of olive oil


    if you like you can replace the pigeon with ‘bunny’

  11. Well, every day’s a school day. I thought pigeons were vermin and you were entirely allowed to shoot them.

    I’m fairly sure that birds, like foxes, have cottoned on to the fact that town-dwellers not only won’t kill them*, but are also rather profligate waste-wise and there are lots of them close together. I’ve seen more foxes in the last six months in Twickenham than I saw for 18 years growing up in rural Warks.

    @BraveFart – yup, we’ve got all of that minus the bat and the blackbirds but plus the hordes of parakeets that live in SW London (something to do with escaping from Kew Gardens years ago). On t’other hand, when I visit the rural ‘rentals I’m lucky to see a single crow.

    *perhaps the cats even this out a bit, but not much.

  12. I have had a beautiful couple of woodpigeons for a few years in my suburban garden.

    I do not know if they are bullies in the bird world, but foxes (or cats) seem to keep their population in check as I find feathers looking like a meal was had on a regualr basis!

  13. @Sam

    Landowners (and their authorised chums) are entitled all year round to kill woodpigeons and destroy eggs and nests of the same (and vrs others such as crows, collared doves, feral pigeons, certain gulls, jays [sadly IMO], magpies, Canada geese and parakeets) under a general licence. You’re also allowed to lamp feral pigeons.

    You don’t need to apply for a GL, it just exists. You must be ostensibly doing it to prevent damage to crops etc or disease, and to have failed with non-lethal methods, but these are trivial hurdles to overcome, and you’re allowed to scoff the pigeons afterwards.

    Other birs have seasons obviously eg pheasant you can only shoot (E&W) between beginning Oct and end of Jan.

  14. Pigeons? Larf, what me, I haven’t larfed so much since granny got her tits caught in the mangle.

    Driving home late one night (from Bentley to Shenton Park, Perth WA) the lights over the Narrows Bridge were infested with roosting pelicans. As I approached, they rose as one and did as all good birds do. They shat. I drove through a cascade of liquid birdshit, stinking of fish. On arrival, I hosed off and cleaned the car, but it took months to get rid of the stink of fish.


  15. Not the same species, actually.

    The flying rats are Columba livia, the wood pigeons are Columba palumbus.

    You’ll also see collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) a fair bit.

  16. I’m not sure what version of Columba I have round my suburban gaff, but I wish they wouldn’t clatter around on my roof yelling at each other at the crack of dawn, then climbing on the flue pipe and having a good old clatter whilst loudly proclaiming their fertility.

  17. Bravefart wrote:

    Also a bat at dusk – only ever seen one bat at a time, but I assume they fly around in shifts.

    I always thoiught they fly around wearing nothing at all.

  18. @BraveFart “corbies” – that’s a new one to me, thanks.

    Herring gulls are a truly magnificent example of a gull, so big and aggressive, so much so that I can scarcely believe they are common here and don’t come Alaska or Siberia.

    Had a bat come into my room, flew around for a couple of minutes then left whence it had entered, clearly not at all confused or distressed, in contrast to birds which tend to panic and display no understanding of what’s happening – conclusion “bats are smarter than birds, also mammals are smarter than birds”.

    The sparrow population has collapsed, nobody seems to know why, used to be far away the most common bird in the gardens of Britain in the seventies.

  19. “The sparrow population has collapsed, nobody seems to know why, used to be far away the most common bird in the gardens of Britain in the seventies.”

    As far as I can work out they’ve all decamped to Southern Spain. Much like this Cockney sparrer. Sun, good food, cheap booze…what’s not to like?

  20. My wife insists on putting out food for the birds. And whilst I won’t deny that they are quite cheering and pleasant, I can’t help thinking that this is just a long-winded way of feeding the neighbour’s cat.

  21. theoldgreenfascist

    “At the parentals”. Wtf? If you mean that you are visiting your mum and dad just say so. Otherwise you just come over as a complete twat.

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Round my neck of the woods we get parrots – little green things a bit smaller than a mistle thrush. They fly around in big shrieking flocks and roost in trees (where they are very hard to spot.) The racket they make is astounding, although you tune it out. Sometimes several thousand at a time will congregate in the trees near my house. We get the odd pigeon but the role of rooting through garbage and general scavenging seems to be occupied by grackles.

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