In the February instalment of our blog series on garden birds, we will be taking a look at the Eurasian collared dove. A frequent visitor to many gardens, collared doves are found throughout the UK after the species spread rapidly northwards from the middle east from the 1950s onwards. To find out everything you need to know about this common British garden bird, read on.
Are Collared Doves Just White Pigeons?
When one thinks of pigeons, what comes to mind are the large grey birds you see picking at discarded food on the street. These are, in fact, feral pigeons. Collared doves, (which we are examining here) and feral pigeons are both from the Columbidae bird family. This family consists of 310 different bird species, characterised by stout bodies and short necks.
Referring to the more general terms, the words “dove” and “pigeon” do not exist in most languages, and dove and pigeon are often used interchangeably in English. Pigeon is a French word that derives from the Latin pipio, for a “peeping” chick, while dove is a Germanic word that refers to the bird’s diving flight. In terms of identification in ornithology, doves refer to smaller species, and pigeons to larger ones.
What Do Collared Doves Look Like?
Collared doves are pale grey-buff to pinky-brown in colour, with a characteristic black neck collar (as their name suggests). In juveniles this collar is less distinct. Their eyes appear to be black, but up close the iris is red in adults and brown in juveniles. There no visible difference between the male and female.
The Eurasian collared dove forms part of a superspecies of collared doves along with the island collared dove of southeast Asia and the African collared dove of sub-Saharan Africa.
Where & When Will I See Collared Doves?
Collared doves are non-migratory birds, so you will see them in Britain all year round. They are often found around towns and villages and are frequent visitors to gardens. Non-native to the UK, the collared dove arrived in Norfolk in the 1950s. Since then it has naturally spread itself throughout Britain, rather than being manually introduced. This is down to juveniles dispersing far and wide from where they are born.
When Do Collared Doves Breed?
For collared doves, breeding begins as early as February and continues until as late as October. On average, collared doves lay about 4 clutches a year consisting of 1 or 2 eggs. Males and females share parenting duties throughout this time.
After attracting a mate, the male collared doves shows the female potential nesting sites, giving a distinctive monotonous call at each one to seek approval. Sites will be high above the ground, and in most cases close to inhabited buildings where food sources are abundant.
Once a nesting site is chosen, the male will bring the female twigs, grasses and roots to build a nest. The nest is a simple platform, that will be built over 1 to 3 days. Other nesting materials may include feathers, wool and string and the nest may be renovated for subsequent broods during the breeding season.
Eggs are a simple white, and once laid the female will incubate during daylight hours, allowing the male to incubate overnight. The incubating process continues for 14-18 days before fledglings hatch. Collared doves are one of the few birds that product ‘crop milk’, which is a substance produced in the crop, where food is stored in the body. The ‘milk’ is then regurgitated and fed to the fledglings.
What Do Collared Doves Eat?
Collared doves are herbivores, and their diet consists mainly of seeds and grains. They will also feed on buds, shoots and berries. Dependence on seeds and grains are one of the reasons the collared doves nest so close to areas inhabited by humans. The birds are not fussy about what seed or grain they eat. Doves digest the husks rather than removing them so there is no need to pick a husk-free mix.
Collared doves are ground feeders, similar to the robin. They will only feed off bird tables and ground feeding trays, or trays secured to bottom of bird feeders where there is a platform for them to perch.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the common but lesser known Eurasian collared dove. Keep a lookout for our next instalment of this series, where we will examine the goldfinch.
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.