It is the biggest European pigeon, measuring about 40 cm in lenght. It has a gray plumage with pinkish breast and iridescent green nape feathers, a white spot on the neck and big, white patches on wings, well visible in flight. The tail tip is black and remiges are dark gray. The bill is orange and has white cere, feet are red and irises are orange.
Its flight is quick, performed by regular beats, with an occasional sharp flick of the wings, characteristic of pigeons in general. It takes off with a loud clattering. It perches well, and in its nuptial display walks along a horizontal branch with swelled neck, lowered wings, and fanned tail. During the display flight the bird climbs, the wings are smartly cracked like a whiplash, and the bird glides down on stiff wings. The common wood pigeon is gregarious, often forming very large flocks outside the breeding season.
It breeds in trees in woods, parks and gardens, laying two white eggs in a simple stick nest which hatch after 17 to 19 days. Wood pigeons seem to have a preference for trees near roadways and rivers. Males exhibit aggressive behaviour towards each other during the breeding season by jumping and flapping wings at each other. Their plumage becomes much darker, especially the head, during hot summer periods. The nests are vulnerable to attack, particularly by crows, because they live in the countryside, the more so early in the year when the leaf cover is not fully formed. The young usually fly at 33 to 34 days; however, if the nest is disturbed, some young may be able to survive having left the nest as early as 20 days from hatching.
The call is a characteristic cooing (croo-coo-croo, croo-coo-croo) similar to the Eurasian Collared Dove's.
Most of its diet is vegetable, round and fleshy leaves from Caryophyllaceae, Asteraceae, and cruciferous vegetables taken from open fields or gardens and lawns; young shoots and seedlings are favoured, and it will take grain, pine nuts, and certain fruits and berries. In the autumn they also eat figs and acorns, and in winter buds of trees and bushes. They will also eat larvae, ants, and small worms. They need open water to drink and bathe in. This species can be an agricultural pest, and it is often shot, being a legal quarry species in most European countries. It is wary in rural areas, but often quite tame where it is not persecuted. Young common wood pigeons swiftly become fat, as a result of the crop milk they are fed by their parents. This is an extremely rich, sweet fluid that is produced in the adult birds' crops during the breeding season.