Bird Lore: Eurasian Collared-Dove

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The Eurasian-collared Dove made its way to the North American continent via releases in the Caribbean. Several birds escaped from a pet shop in the Bahamas during a 1970s burglary. Subsequently, the shop released its remaining doves, about 50 birds. When a volcano threatened eruption on the island of Guadeloupe, other Eurasian Collared-Doves were set free. It is believed that these two populations supplied the birds that eventually arrived in Florida in the early 1980s.

From Florida the species rapidly colonized North America, arriving in Washington state by the early 2000s. The first recorded sighting here was in late 2001 in Pierce County. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is now found extensively throughout the state, except for heavily forested areas. Nevertheless, it has followed highways and been seen at Mt. Rainier and along Snoqualmie Pass. This introduced dove is not readily seen in Edmonds, but can be seen here every year by those who look closely at doves and pigeons.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is bulkier and slightly larger than our native Mourning Dove. It has a broader, shorter tail that is square-cut at the tip, in contrast to the pointed tip of a Mourning Dove’s tail. The black collar at the nape of the neck is its distinctive feature. It is most typically seen perched on roofs, grain elevators, and utility lines. It also can be found on the ground along roads and in parking lots where it forages for grain and grit.

Diet is mostly seeds with some berries and insects. This dove feeds on waste grains of many cultivated crops, which is why it is seen in large numbers around grain elevators where there is spillage. It forages mostly while walking on the ground and forages in flocks when it is not breeding.

The male courtship display starts with flight. He ascends steeply with noisy wingbeats and then glides down in a spiral with wings and tail fully spread. He makes a harsh call during the downward glide. The male also attracts the female by calling and by ritualized bowing displays. The female selects the nest site, which is usually in a tree or shrub, but sometimes on an artificial structure. It is placed between 10-40 feet above ground. The nest, constructed by the female, is a simple platform of twigs and sticks gathered by the male.

Both parents incubate the two eggs for about 14-18 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings pigeon milk, the fluid secreted through the walls of the crop that is rich in protein and fat. The young leave the nest after two to three weeks and are then tended by the adult birds for another week. In warmer regions, the Eurasian Collared-Dove will nest year-round, producing up to six broods each year. It most likely produces fewer broods in the higher latitudes of Washington.

A unique ability of the Eurasian Collared-Dove is that it can drink with its head down, using its bill as a straw to suck up water. Most birds scoop water and then tip back their heads to let it run down the throat. The oldest known wild Eurasian Collared-Dove was at least 13 years and 8 months of age. Collective nouns for all dove species include bevy, cote, dole, flight, and piteousness.

The global population of the Eurasian Collared-Dove is estimated at about 8 million birds, 5 percent of which live in the U.S. It is considered a species of least concern for conservation purposes. Because it is an introduced species in the U.S., the Eurasian Collared-Dove is not protected from hunting. It has become a popular game bird in the Southeast and in Texas. So far, studies have not shown that the rise of Eurasian Collared-Dove numbers has had a negative impact on native birds, including Mourning Doves.

You can hear the repetitive song of a Eurasian Collared-Dove here: https://www.xeno-canto.org/381631.

— By Carol Riddell

Carol Riddell manages the bird education displays, on behalf of Pilchuck Audubon Society and Edmonds Parks & Recreation, at the Olympic Beach Visitor Station.

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