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last updated Nov 18, 2011
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Wood pigeon. Image: ©

Wood pigeons are often the worst bird pest in gardens and on allotments. They peck at leaves, tearing them, often just leaving the stalks larger leaf veins behind. Pigeons attack many plants, but particularly brassicas and peas.

What are pigeons? Back to top

Pigeons are a bird pest of mainly agricultural crops, but can cause damage in gardens and allotments.

Pigeons attack a wide range of plants, but seem particularly keen on the leaves of brassicas (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower), plus cherries, lilac and peas. They will peck at the leaves and rip off portions, often leaving just the stalks and larger leaf veins. They may also attack and strip buds, leaves and fruits from blackcurrants and other fruit bushes.

Symptoms Back to top

You may not see the pigeons actually attacking plants, as they often visit in early morning. This is some of the damage they cause:

  • Torn leaves caused by the pigeons pecking and ripping off portions
  • In severe attacks, most of the foliage is lost, leaving only the leaf stalks.
  • Heavy pigeon grazing prevents brassicas and peas from growing and so no crop is produced
  • Pigeons also eat the fruit of cherries and currants
Pigeon damage to cabbage

Typical damage to cabbage caused by pigeons pecking and ripping of leaves.

Control Back to top

Shooting can be effective but is often not a safe option in gardens or allotments. Scaring devices or repellent substances are likely to give, at best, only temporary protection. The only certain way of protecting vulnerable plants from pigeons is to grow them under netting.

Biology Back to top

Pigeons are present throughout the year but are particularly damaging during early summer when peas and brassica crops are developing. Pigeons are also a problem on winter brassicas, especially when snow or frost makes other vegetation unavailable. In winter, flocks of up to 50 birds can descend on allotments but, at other times, they are seen in smaller numbers.

Pigeons make their nests in trees and tall hedges, laying several clutches of usually two eggs during mid to late summer.


Image: © GWI/Dave Bevan. Available in high resolution at

Quick facts

Common name Wood pigeon
Scientific name Columba palustris
Plants affected Many but especially brassicas and peas
Main symptoms Torn foliage, often only leaf stalks left
Most active Year round