The Monthly Web Magazine for Birdwatchers September 2001  
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 Collared Dove - Fact File
Bluethroat, a rare British birds
Streptopelia decaocta
Widespread resident over most of Britain and Ireland.
Farms, villages, even town parks and gardens. Generally avoids uplands.
Pale buff-grey plumage with distinctive narrow white-edged black collar markings. Monotonous coo cooo coo song and nasal kwerr when landing.
32 cm (12.5")

Collared Dove

To any birdwatchers under 40 it is probably difficult to conceive that collared doves once set twitchers racing across the countryside. I recall the first collared doves I saw were on Romney Marsh in 1961 - a long cycle ride from London where I lived at the time. The spread of the collared dove across Europe is well documented. Originally found in western Asia, in 1932 they were only as far west as Hungary. But presumably at some point in the past a new genotype had arosin that was better adapted to the man-made environments of farmlands and suburbia, and hence was able to carry out this rapid spread westwards. Halting only briefly at the Channel, it crossed into England in 1955, and has now become a very common and widespread resident.

In the summer of 2001 I had a first - feeding on spilled grain 20 yards from our garden gate I saw a mixed flock with every species of British dove: Turtledove, stock dove, rock dove, wood pigeon and collared dove. Strangely the latter is the rarest, only occasionally turning up in our garden. Rock doves (a.k.a feral pigeons) don't breed, but are common enough whenever spilled grain is spotted, and two pairs of turtledove bred in our hedges, while stock doves breed in the old woodland around our garden. Wood pigeon, while not exactly at pest proportions, are certainly abundant.

left - Collared Dove with Turtle Dove for comparison

The collared dove is usually found within striking distance of human habitations - it is a true commensal, like the house sparrow. According to Chris Mead's superb book "the state of the nations' birds", in 1977 less than fifteen years after colonizing, there were already possibly 25 000 breeding pairs in the British Isles. There are now reckoned to be 200 000 pairs in Britain and another 30 000 in Ireland.

By John A Burton

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Copyright Information

  • Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge © Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.
  • Other material: © Birds Of Britain