Wildlife watch: the collared dove

David Chapman / 14 April 2016

The collared dove is now a common garden bird, but it only started breeding in the UK in 1955.



I suppose you could describe the collared dove as a ‘Marmite-bird’, since most people seem to love them or hate them.

The only reason I have ever been given for the dislike of these attractive pink birds is their monotonous cooing, and I must admit this can get a bit annoying outside the bedroom window early in the morning. I suspect the fact that the collared dove is such a common bird also leads to a certain lack of regard but we should remember that it isn’t too long ago that the collared dove was an extreme rarity in the UK.

Origins of the collared dove

This dove has its origins in India and, though it took its time to spread to Eastern Europe, its spread from the Balkans across Western Europe took place at an incredible pace. 

The first breeding success in the UK was in Norfolk in 1955. By 1966 it had bred in every English county and now the population is put at about one million pairs.

It is clearly a less fussy bird than the very similar looking turtle dove whose population has crashed by more than 96% over the same period.

The collared dove enjoys living alongside people, clearly benefiting from free food either deliberately on bird tables or wasted on farm fields. Its habit of sitting on houses has led to it becoming known as 'the aerial bird'.

An affectionate bird

One of the most endearing qualities shown by the collared dove is the apparent affection they show to each other. 

It isn’t unusual to see two collared doves billing and cooing on an aerial or in a tree. 

This pair-bonding activity takes place throughout the year and their breeding season is very long, often lasting from February to October. With two eggs in each brood and the potential for up to six broods per year this is a species with considerable fecundity.

For more on the wildlife that visits your garden see our garden wildlife section.

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