A plump waddling woodpigeon © Katie Brown/Scottish Wildlife Trust

Here at Cumbernauld Living Landscape, we love birds of all shapes and sizes but pigeons are such a familiar sight that most of us barely notice them. This week it is time to give our friend the pigeon some much deserved love.

Speaking of love, did you know that pigeons mate for life? Male woodpigeons will bow and fan out their tail feathers to court a female, so watch out for this behaviour in the spring.

There is actually no scientific distinction between a pigeon and a dove, but colloquial English tends to categorize them by size. In the UK there are five species of pigeon: the woodpigeon, the rock dove, the stock dove, the collared dove, and the turtle dove.

The rock dove is the ancestor of domestic and feral pigeons which closely resemble their wild counterparts but have greater variation in their markings. Feral pigeon’s colours range from grey to black to brown, there are even some that are completely white.

Possibly the most famous pigeon in the UK was a carrier pigeon named Mary who delivered top secret messages during the second world war. Mary was injured on three separate occasions and was awarded with the Dickin Medal for her endurance.

Another example of heroic pigeons is a project from the 1970s – 1980s in California where pigeons were trained to spot the red and yellow life jackets of people floating in the water. The pigeons were carried by helicopters and when they saw a life jacket, they pecked a keyboard, which set off a light. Pigeons have better eyesight than humans and they were found to be quicker and more reliable at spotting survivors from a sinking boat.

So there you have it. Pigeons are amazing!

Katie Brown