The growing problem of obesity

While in Edinburgh, one of the first things that we observed was that there seemed to be more overweight people now than when we lived here in the late 70s! While this is perhaps not a strictly valid comparison, further Internet search indicated that our observation was true[1]. But, we also noted that obesity is also affecting other creatures…

Although I never quite believed her, a good British friend had warned me about this problem before. Her mother and friends fed the birds in their gardens, particularly in winter as, apparently, natural bird food was short at that time. The result of this -she mantioned laughing- was that most birds in her mother’s garden were very fat! This condition affected the pigeons in particular but, according to her, even the little robins looked like meatballs! Until the visit to Edinburgh I thought she was exaggerating, but now I have seen the situation with my own eyes!

A heavy Wood pigeon searching.

A heavy Wood pigeon searching.

The pigeons in Edinburgh are unquestionably fat! I refer here to the Wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) reported by the BBC in 2015 as the most common bird in the UK.[2] Although the young of the species are expected to be fat on account of the crop milk they are fed by their parents, I was not prepared to find the adults fat as well to the point that some had difficulties on taking off, resembling well-fed vultures after spending a good night at a carcass![3]





What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

The confirmation that the problem exists mad me ponder about possible solutions as the situation seems to be unfair on the birds. As usual, increasing public awareness came to mind first, perhaps because of my United Nations experience. This could be tried and people could be explained that birds could be fed but with moderations. The chances of success of such an initiative when they themselves are gaining weight did not seem too good. We are all aware of the apparent slow success of the anti-smoking drive! I decided that it should be tried as a long-term measure that would reduce obesity in future wood pigeon generations.

For the current portly population the problem is more difficult to solve. To expect people to stop feeding them overnight is out of the question. Attempts at them losing weight through natural pigeon methods such as flying would be difficult and it would probably result in their extinction!

I thought and looked harder and although I saw a lot of new developments in Edinburgh such as a pub that promised to look after the husband while the wife works and a teahouse where you can -for a fee- stroke cats while having your cappa tea, I did not come across any breakthroughs that could be used. Pigeon gyms or sliming bird food were not there!

A non suitable revolutionary offer...

A non suitable revolutionary offer…

Maybe a combined routine of feeding them low cholesterol food combined with Pilates to build upper body strength and jogging to reinforce their landing gear may work until they re-gain their ability to take off and land rather than hop about around people looking for food morsels.

However, judging by the predicted situation in humans, I do not expect these measures to be very successful and fear for the future of the wood pigeon that is why I post a few pictures so that they can be remember, even at their present plump condition!


[1] and


[3] The issue is -of course- well known and documented, mainly in a humorous fashion. See: and and


  1. Dear Julio, Thank you for your concern regarding the increasingly ‘traditional build’ of our pigeons. In recent times Scotland has made great strides in reducing its plastic carrier bag use I wonder whether a 5p charge might be applied to the feeding of these birds or indeed whether the ‘bag for life’, without which one can never properly leave home nowadays, might contain a pouch for nutritious yet slightly slimming bird seed.
    Best wishes from Edinburgh,


    1. Good idea! We have just been in the Kruger NP and lots of birds come to feed on scraps in your bungalow so the problem seems to be worldwide! We do feed birds during the dry season in Harare but only the humble (and hopefully non-fattening) bird seed!


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