Are collared doves native to the UK?
The Eurasian collared dove bred for the first time in Britain in 1955 in Norfolk. Before 1930 it was confined to Turkey and the Balkans in Europe, although it was found as far east as China. In the next 20 years, it rapidly expanded its range northwest, quickly colonising most of Europe, and now lives north of the Arctic circle in Norway and as far south as Morocco and the Canary Islands.
So collared doves have only lived and bred in the UK for a few decades, but they weren’t introduced – they spread to new areas on their own, as their young have a tendency to disperse far and wide.
Eurasian collared doves are an invasive, non-native species in North America, where they’re now widespread since a few dozen collared doves escaped from an enclosure in Bahamas in 1974. Their range expansion through the US was even faster than their spread across Europe.
Collared dove on a garden fence. © Tim Oram/Getty
How far do collared doves fly?
Young collared doves have been known to travel over 600km away from where they were born. These epic journeys, made all over Europe, tend to be in a northwest direction, reflecting the direction of the species’ range expansion in the 20th century.
Eurasian collared dove in flight. © Gary Chalker/Getty
Do collared doves mate for life?
Collared doves are monogamous and can breed continuously in warm regions. When a pair has eggs in the nest, the female will incubate the eggs during the day before swapping over at dusk for the male to incubate through the night.
How many chicks do collared doves have?
One factor behind the collared dove’s success is its ability to breed year-round if the weather is mild. They may also start a new nest before the previous young are independent, with the female using breaks from incubation to feed recently fledged offspring.
A collared dove photographed in British Columbia, thousands of miles from the site of their escape just a few decades earlier in the Bahamas
What do collared dove nests look like?
Collared dove nests usually just consist of a platform of sticks – no construction prizes here! They usually nest in trees or shrubs but will also use buildings, favouring ledges, guttering, and the brackets of security lights or satellite dishes.
Collared doves usually build their nests close to human habitation. © Fotosearch/Getty
How to identify a collared dove
Collared doves are smaller and more delicate-looking than woodpigeons, with creamy grey-buff plumage. Adults have a black half-collar on the back of their necks. Their typical call is a clear and persistent three note ‘coo Coo cuk’ which some people think sounds like ‘un-i-ted’.
Collared doves are easily recognised by the black half-collar on their necks. © John Harding/BTO
How common are collared doves?
The British collared dove population started to decline in 2005, though it is still one of the top 10 most common birds seen in BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens. The decline could be due to increasing woodpigeon numbers as the two potentially compete for resources, though it is thought that the disease trichomonosis may also be a cause.
How long do collared doves live for?
The average collared dove lifespan is around three years, although the record is an impressive 17 years. Collared doves reach sexual maturity at one year old.
Where does the collared dove’s name come from?
The scientific name of the collared dove is Streptopelia decaocto. The first part comes from the Greek ‘streptos’, meaning collar and ‘peleia’ meaning dove. The second part is less straight-forward and comes from a Greek myth about a maid complaining about her very low wage of ‘decaocto’ (eighteen) pieces. The dove was created by the gods to shame her mistress.
Collared dove on a branch. © ViktorCap/Getty
Do collared doves ever fly into windows?
If you’ve ever seen a detailed print where a bird has flown into a window, it’s probably a collared dove. Their feathers are so dusty that, on a window imprint, you can often see the detail of individual feathers, the beak and even the eyelids.
The British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) works in partnership with over 40,000 volunteer birdwatchers to chart the fortunes of UK birds.