As National Nestbox Week draws to a close and the breeding season commences, I notice a homely pair of Collared Doves from the comfort of my window, the garden couple are often sat loved up in a Mallow tree just a few metres away. They seem to care not that I can watch as they fawn over each other, engage in mutual preening and every now and again the odd spot of al-fresco love-making!
Collared Doves are a relative newcomer to British gardens, the first breeding record in Britain occurred in Norfolk as recently as 1955. They’re rate of colonisation since then has been nothing short of astonishing as they have spread to such an extent that they are perhaps the most widely seen ‘pigeon’ in our gardens now. Some of their success is down to the length of their breeding season, they can breed from February through until October if you read the books though I have seen at least one image suggesting a fully grown juvenile at the end of January this year!
Slightly smaller and prettier than Wood Pigeons their habit of hanging out in pairs and staying in fairly close proximity to each other has ensured they appeal to garden bird watchers. They’re unassuming, pleasing on the eye and tend not act like bullies at the bird table. Collared Doves have a diet that is cereal-based so garden bird feeders and bird food mixes with wheat and maize (such as the Ultiva® Everyday Seed Mix) are hoovered up in great quantities.
While records suggest that rural Collared Doves are more successful breeders than urban Collared Doves it is their closeness to us and relative tameness that endears them to many. They’ll happily attempt to build a nest on satellite dishes, porch lights and various other precarious ledges around the home and garden. Their ‘Cu-Coo-Cu’ calls aside from being monotonous (especially if you’re trying to sleep in the early hours of summer mornings) are probably responsible for many early reports of Cuckoos in Spring from people unfamiliar with the different calls.
In Winter Collared Doves can gather in big numbers, flocks sometimes numbering into the hundreds at key roosts or local grain stores where they can become a bit of a nuisance. Thankfully I don’t think I’ve had more than four in the garden here at any one time as I’m not sure my income could keep up with feeding too many at the rate they seem to eat at on my bird table!
Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.