Wood pigeons, also known as common wood pigeons or Eurasian wood pigeons, are a common sight in parks, gardens and woodlands across much of Europe, North Africa and Asia. With their distinctive cooing calls and gentle, graceful flight, these sociable birds have become familiar urban visitors. But how long is the typical lifespan of a wood pigeon?
Average Lifespan of Wood Pigeons
Most sources suggest that wood pigeons live on average between 3 to 5 years in the wild. However, their lifespan can vary considerably based on factors like habitat, predators, disease and human activities.
In captivity, wood pigeons may live significantly longer than their wild counterparts, with lifespans of 10 years or more. With a consistent food source, lack of predators and veterinary care, captive wood pigeons are less susceptible to many of the hazards that shorten the lives of wild birds.
What Impacts Wood Pigeon Lifespan?
Several key factors influence the lifespan of wild wood pigeons:
As ground-feeding birds, wood pigeons are vulnerable to attack from foxes, cats, mustelids like stoats and weasels, and birds of prey. While pigeons can escape aerial predators by flying into dense vegetation, synchronous take-offs in flocks may attract the unwanted attention of peregrine falcons in particular. Nestlings and eggs are easy targets for mammalian predators.
Common pigeon diseases like avian pox, trichomonosis and pigeon paramyxovirus can cut lives short. Parasites like pigeon flies, mites and internal worms can also weaken birds over time. In overcrowded or unsanitary conditions, illness spreads rapidly through flocks.
Lack of food is a major threat, especially in winter when resources are scarce. During cold months, many wood pigeons starve or fall prey because they are weakened by hunger. Harsh winters and ice storms can decimate local populations.
Humans impact wood pigeon numbers through hunting, loss of habitat, and use of pesticides and rodenticides. Vehicle collisions and entanglement in nets or wires also kill many birds annually. However, pigeons have adapted well to urbanization and associate humans with plentiful food sources.
Like other animals, wood pigeons become more susceptible to disease, predation and accident as they age. Declining mobility, vision and cognitive function all contribute to reduced survival rates among elderly pigeons.
Stages of a Wood Pigeon’s Life
To better understand factors affecting longevity, let’s look at the various stages in the typical lifespan of a wood pigeon:
Chick (0-4 weeks)
Wood pigeon chicks hatch after an incubation period of 17 to 19 days. Chicks fledge at around 4 weeks old but remain dependant on parental care until 6 to 7 weeks of age. Mortality rates are highest in chicks, with predators, accidents, weather and disease all significant threats.
Juvenile (2-6 months)
Fledglings often form flocks with other juveniles for safety in numbers. Foraging skills are still developing so hunger is a risk. Juveniles may disperse to new areas to avoid competition with adult birds. Danger of predation remains elevated due to inexperience.
Subadult (6 months to 2 years)
As subadults master flight and foraging, survival rates improve. Competition for food and conflict with adult pigeons is still a hazard. Subadults start selecting mates and defending nesting territories. Some may breed in their first year.
Adult (2-5 years)
In the peak of health and experience, adult wood pigeons have the best chance of evading predators and finding sufficient food. Their main causes of death are disease, extremely harsh winters, and human activities like hunting. Reproduction carries risks including egg/chick loss.
Senior (5+ years)
Few wood pigeons exceed 5 years in the wild. Advancing age brings deteriorating eyesight, hearing, immune function and flight ability. Nesting success and raise fewer chicks. Seniors may get displaced from prime feeding areas by younger, stronger birds.
Extending Lifespan in Captivity
Responsible aviculturalists can increase lifespan dramatically by replicating wild conditions while eliminating negative factors:
- Offer pigeons a spacious, enriched enclosure with areas to perch, roost, bathe and forage. Provide access to sunshine and fresh air.
- Feed a healthy, varied diet with vitamin/mineral supplements. Ensure access to grit for digestion.
- Maintain scrupulous cleanliness and biosecurity to prevent disease outbreaks.
- Schedule regular veterinary checkups to treat any emerging health issues promptly.
- Avoid overbreeding birds. Give breeding pairs appropriate nest sites and supplements.
- Exercise caution introducing new birds from unknown origins to reduce disease risk.
- Humanely control known predators like rats. Install netting or remove hazards from enclosures.
- Follow best practices for humane care outlined by avian organizations. Prioritize birds’ welfare over aesthetics.
With attentive care, it’s possible for pet wood pigeons to survive over 10 years in captivity. The oldest known wood pigeon was reportedly 28 years old!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you estimate a wood pigeon’s age?
- Juveniles have few iridescent neck feathers. Their eyes are dark brown rather than the orange-red of adults.
- Subadults gain more glossy neck feathers yearly. Eye color starts lightening after 6 months.
- In adults, eye color reaches brilliant orange-red. The white neck patch is complete.
- Senior pigeons have worn plumage and scales on feet and legs. Productivity declines.
What is the mortality rate of young wood pigeons?
Mortality is highest in the first year of life. One study estimated 75% of wood pigeons die in their first year. However, lifespan greatly improves once pigeons survive to adulthood.
How do wood pigeons behave as they age?
- Juveniles beg loudly for food and clamor together, easily scared.
- Subadults are more independent but still quite gregarious.
- Adults focus on breeding, defending nest sites and raising young.
- Seniors are less social and vocal. They visit feeders more frequently and rest more.
Do pet wood pigeons live longer than wild ones?
Yes, captive wood pigeons tend to live significantly longer, with lifespans over 10 years possible under ideal conditions. Eliminating mortality factors like predators, disease and starvation enables longevity that exceeds wild pigeons.
What health problems impact senior wood pigeons?
Common age-related issues include arthritis, cataracts, overgrown beaks, respiratory infections, and declining mobility. Providing supplements, physical therapy and veterinary care helps mitigate senior health issues.
In summary, wood pigeons typically live 3 to 5 years in the wild, but may exceed 10 years in captivity. Their lifespan is influenced by habitat quality, food availability, predators, disease and human activities. With attentive care, pet wood pigeons can live into their senior years.