Surely after the non-native Common Pheasants that are released every year in their millions across our fair and enchanted isle and that we see parading across our roads in rural areas, Woodpigeons are the most suicidal of birds. Common Pheasants at least have an excuse for being 'stupid', being raised and fed artificially for release into the countryside for the chinless ones to blast out of the sky at the earliest opportunity or for Black Audi drivers to run over on the road. Try the A44 by Blenheim Estate near Woodstock any time after October to see the pheasant carnage on the road.You can hardly move for bodies and feathers!
Woodpigeons however are a native species that regularly insist on walking or standing in the middle of the road and allowing vehicles to approach dangerously close as if almost to invite collision and violent death. They just stand there eyeing any oncoming car as if they cannot quite believe that the on-rushing vehicle will really not slow down and drive ever so graciously around them. By the time they work out that this is not going to happen it is often too late and a blizzard of scattered white feathers marks the demise of yet another Woodpigeon.
I have found no real answer as to why they are so slow on the uptake. Let's face it all other birds give moving vehicles a healthy wide berth and certainly do not stand there watching their impending doom approach at speed. There is a theory that Woodpigeons do not perceive cars as moving as fast as they actually do but surely over time they would have evolved a strategy to realise that they best fly out of the way when a vehicle approaches as they represent extreme danger. They do after all fly off PDQ when they see a human on foot- especially round here where anything with feathers or fur is considered fair game.
Hedgehogs have fairly rapidly realised it is not sensible to curl up in the middle of the road when the four wheeled monster approaches but to continue running for their lives. Maybe for Woodpigeons, as a species, evolving a rapid fly away strategy is not worth it as no matter how many are killed by cars or shot by farmers there appears to be no diminishing in their numbers. Indeed in the autumn large numbers can be seen making mass movements into the UK. Are they all coming to die with our native birds? Are they not happy to dice with road users on the Continent? Looked at closely Woodpigeons are really beautiful birds with their pastel shades of pink and grey but this beauty apparently does not go with an innate sense of self preservation..We shrug at their supposed stupid ways and think nothing of their bodies scattered along our roadsides, there are so many of them after all, but remember the Passenger Pigeon and what happened to that unfortunate bird