WOODPIGEONS SEEM strangely feckless parents. Their nests are platforms of bare twigs, with no grass, wool or feathers to provide support and insulation for the plain white eggs. If the sitting bird is disturbed and takes off in a hurry, one or more of the eggs often rolls overboard and is lost. In spite of this, woodpigeons are doing extremely well. Estimates of their numbers in Britain vary wildly, but some specialists put the end-of-summer population as high as 15 million. The RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology agree that numbers have risen over the past 30 years, mainly because of changes in farming, in particular the proliferation of oilseed rape.
The birds do immense damage to farm crops. One expert, John Batley, claims that one pigeon gets through enough wheat in a week to make a loaf of white bread. So 1,000 birds put away a ton of food a week, and the national population devours some 440,000 tons of agricultural produce a year.