Pigeons can peck at leaves, tearing them, often just leaving the stalks and larger leaf veins behind. Pigeons will feed on many plants, lilac, brassicas and peas are favourites.

Wood pigeon on lawn

Quick facts

Common name: Wood and feral pigeon
Scientific name: Columba palumbus and C. livia
Plants affected: Many but especially lilac, brassicas and peas
Main symptoms: Torn foliage, often only leaf stalks left
Most active: Year round

What are pigeons?

Pigeons are often a cause of agricultural crop damage, but they can feed on plants in gardens and allotments.

Pigeons feed on a wide range of plants, but seem particularly keen on the leaves of brassicas (such as broccoli, sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower), cherries, lilac and peas. They will peck at the leaves and rip off portions, often leaving just the stalks and larger leaf veins. They may also strip buds, leaves and fruits from blackcurrants and other fruit bushes.


You may not see the pigeons feeding on plants, as they often visit in early morning.  Signs they have been present include:

  • Torn leaves caused by pigeons pecking and ripping off portions
  • In severe cases, most of the foliage is lost, leaving only the leaf stalks
  • Heavy pigeon grazing prevents brassicas and peas from growing and no crop is produced
  • Pigeons will also eat the fruit of cherries and currants
  • Established trees and shrubs will usually recover from pigeon damage


  • The only certain way of protecting vulnerable plants from pigeons is to grow them under netting or in a fruit cage. To avoid accidentally trapping or injuring birds and other animals, always ensure that netting is kept taut, and check regularly for holes
  • Scaring devices or repellent substances are likely to give, at best, only temporary protection. Deterrents based on calcium chloride such as Grazers G1 are also available and may give some protection
  • Larger plants such as established lilacs will usually recover from pigeon damage and so it can be tolerated
  • Additional information on living with pigeons can be obtained from the RSPCA


Pigeons are present throughout the year but are particularly active in gardens during early summer when peas and brassica crops are developing. Pigeons are also feed on winter brassicas, especially when snow or frost makes other vegetation unavailable. In winter, flocks of up to 50 birds can descend on allotments but, at other times, they are seen in smaller numbers.

Pigeons make their nests in trees and tall hedges, laying several clutches of usually two eggs during mid to late summer.

Image: © GWI/Dave Bevan. Available in high resolution at www.gardenworldimages.com

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