We went to the intelligent end of the bird pool last week, but this week we are back in the shallow end with the delicate and pretty, but not obviously bright, Collared Dove.
With a couple of million birds in the UK it’s easy to think of the Collared Dove as something that’s been here since most of England was woodland. Yet the reality is within the lifetime of you or somebody you know, this bird would have been a rare visitor. A hundred years ago you’d be lucky to see it west of Turkey. It wasn’t recorded in the UK till the early 1950s, breeding by the mid-50s. It’s not that it’s a migrant, just that it breeds well in a range of conditions through the year, and this means it builds up numbers and has to expand territorial ranges. Which has seen it spread so successfully. It’s one of the world’s most widespread birds, resident now in Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
While you may only see a single pair and their young in your garden, in winter in fields they form flocks of hundreds, even thousands, of birds.
They are generally quite tame and plenty of garden birders have taught them to take food from the hand.
They don’t seem to get the same level of contempt the Wood Pigeon receives, probably because they same a little prettier, more graceful and elegant. Yet in my observations they are equally slow.
They are devoted parents, which is part of their profound globe-trotting success. This can be to a fault however, as I observed earlier this year with an adult still desperately brooding a dead chick.
We will see if the Collared continues to spread in the future. Central and South Africa may be too hot. The Americas may meet any invaders with a brutal cull. But after the Cattle Egret, the Collared Dove is one of the most successful naturally dispersed species. Regardless of anything else, that makes it worthy of respect.