Collared Dove. Streptopelia decaocto
I had an unexpected visitor this morning, breaking into the lockdown quiet. A pair of collared doves have been often perching on my window sill. The sash was open and now this delicately marked bird was banging and panicking against the pane inside. It flew off unharmed.
Collared doves are smaller and daintier cousins to our familiar woodpigeon – about 31cm to the woodpigeon’s 41 cm. They are mainly soft grey, beige and pale pink, with a thin black half-collar on the nape of their neck. A band of white underneath the tail is seen in flight. Their plumage would camouflage well in the deserts of the Middle East where the birds originated. Collared doves have been gradually moving west, first breeding in the UK in 1955. Now UK numbers are up to 990,000 pairs – an extraordinary success story.*
There can’t be many areas of Tayport this spring where the voice of the collared dove has not been heard. But although it is so much prettier to look at, its song can’t rival the cooing of the Woodpigeon. This somewhat ungainly bird produces a relaxed and rather dreamy ker KOOO koo ker koo (“I don’t want to go”). Whereas the Collared Dove has a breathless and impatient ku KOOO ku (“Come quickly!” or perhaps the football cry “United!”**)
However, the Collared Dove is a better friend to gardeners. Unlike the Woodpigeon, it won’t steal your cabbages, feeding mainly on seeds and grains. Spare a thought for the farmers.
Photo: Richard Tough
*Holden, P. and Cleeves, T. : RSPB Hand book of British Birds (2014).
** Thomas, Adrian: RSPB Guide to Birdsong. (2019)