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Pigeon numbers and bags


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rather than high-jack the “guns on pegs” thread I have started a new one on the theme of Pigeon numbers and bags. (because its peeing down with rain again)

 

There's a number of farms in an area not far from me that were a big draw for pigeons during the summer months (not as good now) they would start on the standing corn and then hit the first few combined fields in very big numbers, I have been fortunate in shooting on these farms for over 40 years and have shot some big bags in that time, there’s a PW member who was until recently a regular poster of his outings, he also knows this area and what it can produce, think his last outing on one of the farms produced a bag of 300+ pigeons, big bags can be had (Balotelli) in the right area and at right time.

 

Which brings me onto the question of why such large numbers hit a particular area/field with the stream of pigeons coming from a broad front but in one general direction, with the odd birds coming from the back and sides of the field.

Question; how do all these pigeons over a broad front know this is where dinner is today? I have my own thoughts on this but would be interested to hear others.

 

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7 minutes ago, clangerman said:

frequently watch them heading out from the town best guess would be first birds leaving remember a good spot or decide by the weather as a lot do seem to fly towards the sun 

one thought was, when heading to their feeding field do pigeons have a particular flight that is not obvious to us, bit like bees on the honey comb doing a food source and direction dance.

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Just now, old'un said:

one thought was, when heading to their feeding field do pigeons have a particular flight that is not obvious to us, bit like bees on the honey comb doing a food source and direction dance.

they do look different with the binoculars heading out seem to fly a bit faster and lower I put it down to hunger most puzzling one is numbers dropping so much over last few years some of my perms are like a desert now 

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There is a big difference between winter and summer in relation to pigeon numbers in most areas. Summer populations are sedentary whilst winter ones are migratory.

Last summer I hardly saw more than 100 pigeons between three farms and now there are 5,000.

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6 minutes ago, JDog said:

There is a big difference between winter and summer in relation to pigeon numbers in most areas. Summer populations are sedentary whilst winter ones are migratory.

Last summer I hardly saw more than 100 pigeons between three farms and now there are 5,000.

i think your secretly the piped piper of pigeons jdog getting a bag do you think numbers in general have gone up or down in recent years 

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I know that during the winter months pigeons will generally fly upwind to find food, lets say you find 500 or more pigeons on a field of rape in winter and walk them off, they generally go in one direction and in a tight-ish group, they land in some woods a mile or so away, now after some time they start to brake from the trees and play follow the leader, they can see one another as there's no leafs on the trees and are close together, if left undistributed most of the birds in the wood will follow their mates back to the rape field.

Now lets take summer pigeons, as JDog said summer pigeons are a totally different bird to winter pigeons, these same birds are now breeding and spread over a very large area of countryside, but those same 500 or more pigeons somehow know which field all the other pigeons are heading for, its possible as I said before that its the way the birds are flying, other birds sat in trees see this and follow causing a domino and funnel effect over a wide area, just my thoughts.

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9 minutes ago, clangerman said:

i think your secretly the piped piper of pigeons jdog getting a bag do you think numbers in general have gone up or down in recent years 

It is difficult for me to give you a definitive opinion about numbers as I have only been in the Lincolnshire Wolds for five years but certainly I see a lot here from November onwards until early in the New Year when they all go off to Norfolk to see Motty and Muncher.

Perhaps a better example of varying numbers could be an area in the Cotswolds where I used to live. Between us my shooting partner and I had 20,000 acres and we knew when and where we could see pigeons. One area where the farming was the standard rape, wheat, barley, peas/beans mix we could never get much of a bag unless we shot Corvids. In ten years our best was 144 made up of 104 Corvids and 40 pigeons.

This year, with a novice shooter my companion shot 287 one day followed by three days over 100 and ended up with 800 pigeons from three fields. 

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Anyone who has read my ramblings in the past will know I'm a lover of" Flightlines" and with restrictions that we have had to cope with this year it has held me in good stead. Ive stated my theories many times, they change summer to winter but to explain again. Birds who go to roost early are full and digest overnight and are the first to feed in the morning, so return to the field they fed on the day before, other birds in the roost follow them and if not disturbed build up in the field until it is exhausted. Summer birds will see a flightline for example out of a city or woodland and follow the same pattern.

During the first lockdown in March I was called out to a farm that had not managed to seed over the winter and in the space of two weeks sowed cereals and beens I managed 800 birds of this farm setting up in the morning with no birds evident. The birds would fly out of the local town when they wanted.

People who know my normal routine know that I spend approx two months of the summer in Greece and miss the stubble shootings, but this year I was around and had some good days along with DB and Bunny_Blaster, social distancing shooting.

I was invited the other week to go out first light on some local rape which had been the attention of a good number of birds, set up and watched the birds come out of roost and pass over me into the distance. B_B was on another field and managed thirty plus passing birds. I had to return home butt B_B followed the line and found the birds.

I recently had a call from my game dealer asking if I had any birds so I delivered 700 and decided to count up this years total so far. I processed 9,550 units and with the discarded decoys this would amount to 10,000.

Recently Ive watched migratory birds passing high over my house all at a very good height with the local birds a lot lower feeding still on acorns and holly berries in the gardens. If you are lucky enough to find a migratory roost you could have a good day as they leave the roost in the morning for a food topup.

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Hi I agree about flight lines. I’ve seen pigeons using motorways as flight lines for years, any field of rape near a motorway will have problems with pigeons. We always have large numbers of pigeons, more this year than any one can remember. The pigeons were in large flocks in the summer due to ( falconers) chasing pigeons from field to field. Falcons are the new greyhound now. Most of the pigeons I shoot are town and city pigeons , I have shot a number of ringed birds over the years all from Sefton Park or Princess Park Liverpool ,I shot two in one day .I always report the birds and follow the ringing data. The city pigeons nest higher and later, perfect timing with ripening cereal crops in the area, and more chicks survive than farmland pigeons that nest earlier. These guys have noted numbers of nests and chicks hatched for years in parks and farmlands .The pigeons will feed on the same fields year after year . As for numbers of pigeons shot each year between myself family and friends it’s a lot of pigeons never listed any were, and there are a lot of shooters in the country as well. The towns and cities are full of pigeons, it’s a shame to see some of them eating scraps with feral pigeons. I mentioned on another topic that I used the same type of decoys since the early 60s l have a photo of them. No wasted birds just take the wings off the pigeon just shot.I have more photos that my friend sent to his family I will see if I can get them. My brother would tie them to cardboard tubes, we just got rid of the tubes, they got wet and fell in bits. We could carry a lot of these in a gas mask bag. The wings of rooks are just as good.

31D633BD-0214-4ED1-9D86-BE87F6E51E1B.jpeg

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On 16/12/2020 at 14:05, old'un said:

I know that during the winter months pigeons will generally fly upwind to find food, lets say you find 500 or more pigeons on a field of rape in winter and walk them off, they generally go in one direction and in a tight-ish group, they land in some woods a mile or so away, now after some time they start to brake from the trees and play follow the leader, they can see one another as there's no leafs on the trees and are close together, if left undistributed most of the birds in the wood will follow their mates back to the rape field.

Now lets take summer pigeons, as JDog said summer pigeons are a totally different bird to winter pigeons, these same birds are now breeding and spread over a very large area of countryside, but those same 500 or more pigeons somehow know which field all the other pigeons are heading for, its possible as I said before that its the way the birds are flying, other birds sat in trees see this and follow causing a domino and funnel effect over a wide area, just my thoughts.

I noticed the opposite yesterday! Got this maize field which is the best food source around with lots of loose grain on top. The numbers have been building nicely and finally shot it yesterday after waiting for a cracking 15mph wind with 30mph gusts. Everything was set up well, I waited for the afternoon feed and as my recon told me the birds began to arrive midday onwards but to my surprise, downwind over my right shoulder. The woodies then stayed high and flocked up despite the high wind, flying further than my decoy spread and very few turned back upwind to coy. If they did, they simply skirted the pattern often high and out of range. I’m pretty new to winter pigeon shooting but can you suggest how I can get them to decoy when they’re flying like this. They have two known holding woods or so I thought but yesterday they were flying downwind with no intention of decoying. This is definitely they’re chosen food source. They didn’t want to leave but just stayed high and ignoring my pattern. Do you think I was the problem?!

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59 minutes ago, JDog said:

I suspect that the pigeons you are seeing will be a migrant flock. Pigeons in those flocks are notoriously difficult to decoy.

Quite possibly. However, this lot have been feeding on the maize for the past 4 weeks. Would migrants hang around this long? Out of curiosity what are the indications that this might be a migrant flock? My only clue that these may be migrants is the fact that the field was harvested in September with tons of food left over and for weeks and months there were maybe 4 to 5 pigeons maximum per day. All of a sudden 200 pigeons appeared and then the next day it was double this. 

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13 hours ago, Pigeon addict said:

Quite possibly. However, this lot have been feeding on the maize for the past 4 weeks. Would migrants hang around this long? Out of curiosity what are the indications that this might be a migrant flock? My only clue that these may be migrants is the fact that the field was harvested in September with tons of food left over and for weeks and months there were maybe 4 to 5 pigeons maximum per day. All of a sudden 200 pigeons appeared and then the next day it was double this. 

Pigeons at this time of year, local or migrants, are in heightened survival mode, they are not as forgiving as summer pigeons, winter pigeons will sometimes sit it out all day in distant woods if it means survival or food, when the weather as been very mild I have seen pigeons sit it out for 3 days without moving or feeding.

Migrates or locals? I have never been sure about this, we all know that pigeons flock-up at this time of year, safety in numbers, but I sometimes wonder if that flock of pigeons that suddenly appear overnight is not just a gathering of resident birds from a large area that move about en-masse, in your area today but ten miles up the road tomorrow, I know that for as long as I have been shooting pigeons there as always been talk that during the winter months we get large numbers arriving from other countries, how true this is I don't actually know and I don't think anyone really knows, or do they?

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Just to add to my last post on pigeon numbers and whether the large flocks are possibly migrant birds or just the gathering of resident birds during the winter months, as said in my last post these large flocks will move about, but are they really migrants (from abroad) or resident birds.

So lets say there are around 12 million resident pigeons spread over the UK, now come winter and the birds start flocking up, so lets take a figure of 5000 birds, now if we multiply this number by 2400 it gives us a total of 12 million, now spread 2400 flocks of pigeons over the UK at 5000 per flock and you can see why when people see this many pigeons flying high they assume they must be migrant birds (not UK residents) obviously if we half the numbers per flock of birds we now have 4800 flocks of 2500 per flock, another thing that will effect these numbers are when we get heavy snowfall from Leeds heading north into Scotland.

 

Rightly or wrongly its just my thoughts and observations on the subject of bird numbers and migrants.

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This winter have been very open and mild with most areas that are known for good Pigeon shooting have got an abundance of food so the local population have got no reason to flock up and move on , we didn't know the answer in pre rape days when the experts told us there were more pigeons starved to death in the winter than pigeons shot , so apart from saving the sprouts we were shooting on in snowy conditions we were not on paper keeping the numbers down :hmm:

One way of knowing might be if more ringing was done , mind you I have only shot one ringed Wood Pigeon in my life and that was rung about 9 miles from where I shot it so that didn't tell us much about moving about the country with the onset of Winter :lol:

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Hi oldun the where have the pigeons gone, has been disgusted for years. The question l am asked is where have they come from. When l shoot in July and August l would say the pigeons are manly from the town and city . The smaller darker pigeons on winter rape could be migrating pigeons. The (healthy) pigeons that feed in small flocks and feed through out the day on rape will be urban pigeons. The farmland pigeons will move from farm to farm and travel many miles in the winter. I would say that the flocks of pigeons flying high in winter could be farmland pigeons moving or chased around the country. Pigeons can travel many miles in an hour or two and they know where they are going. I looked at my Bto ring reports and found four pigeons shot on the same field, two on the same day. The pigeons are ringed and shot almost to the same date in 12 month intervals. Also the finding circumstances always reported (shot) the pigeon reported this year is (shot to protect foodstuff animals or game). I’ve never seen this before on reports . I think this will be to cover the birds on the general licence . I have reported other birds and wildfowl but not from the same place. I have enclosed the photos l hope they are of interest to you.

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17B09040-0DE5-48C7-A757-9E9A7EF33849.jpeg

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Interesting, thanks for posting, I guess if you live and shoot within 10-15 miles or so of a big city then there's a good chance a fair few of the birds will be city pigeons, what I was trying to ask was, when we see reports of 3, 4, 5 thousand pigeons flying high and all going in the same direction, are these UK birds moving up and down the country or foreigners from across the water?

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Hi l do shoot near towns and around large forest. I would say most of the pigeons flying high are from this country. More pigeons are nesting in towns and cities and numbers are increasing, the farmland pigeons are decreasing in numbers. The beaters on the estates near Southport and St Helens have noticed reduce numbers of pigeons in roosting woods. In winter a lot of pigeons are moving around the country. We move on large numbers of pigeons in winter, they mostly go south east, when the flock starts to get higher they don’t come back. Ducks and geese will move around the country, when wigeon have  grazed off a marsh thousands of them will move. Pigeons must be the same. I’ve noticed more ivy each year and more local pigeons feeding on them. When the (roaming) pigeons arrive they will feed on rape and don’t feed on ivy. As for pigeons coming from Europe, less wildfowl are coming from Europe now so maybe less pigeons. I have many flight lines from towns and forest they all start and finish at different times of the year but the high (roving) pigeons have a mind of their own. when we move on a flock of a couple of thousand pigeons they would be noticed flying over. When they are moved on from the next stop they will be noticed moving again. a lot of pigeons are feeding on ivy and are not noticed as they don’t go far from the tree line. I noticed that when a flock of pigeons move to feed another flock would follow them. When they move around the country they will do the same, it’s a lot of birds flying around. They will always return to the best breading site. We don’t realise how many pigeons we have in our country and they all have to eat every day. It’s not only rape pigeons will feed on in winter, turnips and potato fields will be better.  Ringed pigeons from Europe have been recorded in UK. 

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Today Jacko and I saw several large flocks sitting up in trees and bushes. We then moved on to another farm where we saw a flock of between 5,000 and 6,000. It was quite a sight. 

These birds are just not decoyable at the moment.

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