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Pigeons and Doves

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Feral Pigeon Columba livia

Debate exists about the persistence of genuine Rock Doves, but they generally thought to have gone extinct from Cornwall as early as 4000 BC. As elsewhere in Cornwall, feral pigeons are common, occasionally reverting back to Rock Dove-like behaviour by breeding on cliffs and get reported as such from time-to-time. A large flock is resident at Trethvas Farm.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Ferel Pigeons reverting back to Rock Dove-like behaviour on the Lizard.Medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Stock Dove Columba oenas [BoCC5: Amber]

Until the 1880s, Stock Doves were only known as an autumn migrant and winter visitor to Cornwall, though by c. 1900 it was known to be breeding around the Helford, which remains its current stronghold, though breeding birds also occur around Loe Pool and elsewhere in the north Lizard area. It is scarce in the south Lizard area, though large flocks of migrants, sometimes numbering several 100 regularly occur towards the end of October and early Nov. It is occasionally recorded in the south Lizard area in spring too.

Normally a rare bird on the south of the Lizard, Stock Dove become quite common in Nov. These in a field near Old Lizard Head in 2021. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Stock Dove on the Lizard. Medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Woodpigeon Columba palumbus [BoCC5: Amber]

This species is a common and widespread breeding resident throughout the Lizard and has undoubtedly occurred since antiquity. Large movements sometimes occur toward the end of October and the beginning of November, when mixed flocks of Stock Dove and Woodpigeon, the latter usually more common, are quite a frequent site.

Woodpigeon, Church Cove. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Woodpigeon on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur [IUCN: VU][BoCC5: Red]

The distribution of this species in England broadly follows that of its main food source: common fumitory, but although this plant species occurs commonly in Cornwall, the Turtle Dove has never been a common breeder west of Dartmoor. Nevetheless, there are mid-summer records from Ruan Minor in 1963 and Manaccan in 1986 and a pair bred on the Lizard Peninsula in 1981, though one of the pair was killed. However, the other re-paired and successfully fledged young.


It is primarily seen scarce and declining spring and autumn passage migrant. Extreme dates are 10th Apr (2023) and 8th Nov (1987), though one was seen regularly at Mullion in January 1986. As an indication of the magnitude of the declines in recent decades, 41 were recorded on the Lizard on 10th Jun 1979, whereas since 2000 rarely are more than 3 reported in a single day.


Turtle Dove, Housel. Ilya Maclean


Seasonal trends of initial sightings of Turtle Dove on the Lizard Peninsula (where dates available). Blue: pre-2020 records. Red: post-2020 records (including 2020).


Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

This species established itself in the UK in 1955 and spread rapidly and was first recorded on the wires with three Turtle Dove near Trethvas Farm on 24th Sep 1960. Two were also seen at Ruan Minor on 2nd-16th Dec 1961 and from 1962 it became regular. It is now a common resident on the Lizard, though with some evidence of recent decline. Nevertheless in the hypothetical case of a sighting of one with three Turtle Doves, it is undoubtedly the latter species that would draw attention currently.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Collared Dove on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.

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