Bowing Pigeons

Wood Pigeon
Wood Pigeon

Today as I was watching the garden through my binoculars I noticed two wood pigeons on a branch. I don’t usually pay much attention to the wood pigeons. There are so many of them in our garden and they seem too close to their abundant inner city neighbours to be of interest. However, today I didn’t simply skim over them and I was rewarded with an interesting display.

One of the pigeons – pigeon A – was simply sat on the branch in much the usual way that wood pigeons do. However, the second pigeon – pigeon B – was stood a few feet away from pigeon A. Pigeon B gave a deep bow, looked up and then shuffled closer to pigeon A. He repeated this until he was almost next to pigeon A, but before he could reach her she flew away. Pigeon B sat on the branch for a while before flying off to join pigeon A and repeat the whole process again.

This almost comical act is in fact part of the mating ritual of the wood pigeon. It is comical because bowing seems like such a human act, and it would be absurd to imagine a person trying to attract a mate by bowing. Yet despite this I quite like it, it seems like a respectful way to go about mating. The male bird is almost worshipping the female and though the male persists despite the females attempts to fly away, he at least gives her the time to get used to the idea. For anyone who has ever seen malard ducks mating at their local park or river, the wood pigeon’s bowing is certainly a nice contrast.

Photo used under Creative Commons from SteveR-.


  1. pigeonpoet says:

    Wood pigeons fascinate me. How could a hen pigeon resist that courtly bow? I’ve also seen wood pigeons fighting. They stand up straight and tall and lance at each other with the wing. Is that part of the mating ritual or cocks fighting when many of the hens are occupied with eggs? I’ve seen two with wounded wings unable to fly.

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