Rather surprisingly, Pigeons are one of the few species of birds who are truly monogamous, often forming lifelong pairs. Unlike most wild birds they are also capable of reproducing all year round, provided conditions are favourable and their is enough food for the adults and chicks.
With the sun shining I have been spending a lot of time outside and as usual wherever I go the pigeons will appear, hoping for a handout of food to which I will usually oblige.
Once their stomachs and crops are filled with seed, they are happy to stick around and go about their usual behaviour undisturbed by my presence creating a great opportunity to observe their courtship rituals up close.
On this day one particular pair already appeared to have established a firm bond, spending most of their time side by side and distancing themselves from the rest of the flock. The male has distinct plumage of dark steely grey with some white peppering on his head and bright white wing primaries making him easy to identify from the other birds. His mate is a rather petite, unremarkable bird with black wing bars.
The handsome male with white flecks on his head
Bright white primaries
The male strutting his stuff beside his mate
If his mate wandered too far away, or too close to the other pigeons, the grey male would promptly chase and drive her away to ensure he would be the only one attempting to mate with her.
Keen to impress his lady, he would regularly dance around her with large strides and a bobbing head, his neck puffed out to emphasise the iridescent patches of green in the feathers. All the while he cooed softly to her whilst she watched his every move carefully with her beady red eyes.
Bowing with his chest feathers expanded
The female bird then demonstrated her willingness to mate, by turning to her partner and seizing him by the beak in a behaviour known as billing. Then, with beaks interlocked the pair rhythmically bobbed their heads as though exchanging food (although food is not always given).
Pigeons ‘billing’ I
Pigeons ‘billing’ II
This behaviour regularly precedes the actual act of mating and on this day my luck was in. I was able to capture the whole sequence under almost perfect conditions, images I have been trying to capture for a while now.
— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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