The 12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Two Collared doves

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Perching on a snow covered branch. Perthshire, Scotland - Fergus Gill/2020VISION

Christmas is in the air and here in Ipswich we’re starting to feel rather festive! Join us in the run up to Christmas by celebrating some of the towns wild places and awesome species as we adapt the famous words of The 12 days of Christmas. Traditionally for the second day of Christmas we’d be receiving two turtle doves, but we’ve decided to talk to you about two Collared doves instead.

Often found in gardens and green spaces around the town and further afield throughout the UK, Collared doves, identified by their crescent moon black collar on the nape of their necks, are a frequently spotted bird that can often be heard gently cooing in monogamous pairs. They weren’t always such a common feature in the UK however, as they were previously absent before the 1950s. Unlike many non-native species now present in the UK, the collared dove wasn’t an introduced species and colonised here by themselves from Europe, and originally from Asia, due to their ability to travel over an impressive 600km from their nest site and are well known for being one the best colonisers of the avian world.  

As well as being a well-travelled species, the Collared dove is able to breed almost continuously throughout the year with the female often laying a new clutch before her previous is fully independent. Taking breaks from incubating her new clutch, she will spend her time off the eggs to feed her fledglings whilst the male takes a turn to stay at home to keep the eggs warm. This again highlights how the Collared dove has been so successful in colonising in the UK. Although wining a prize for being hands on parents, they don’t win any prizes for their nest constructions which are often little more than a few perilously placed twigs in forks of trees or on top of man made structures. A reason for such haphazard nest making may be in order to reserve energy that might have been spend otherwise on making elaborate nests for feeding their young.

Unfortunately, despite being one of the most common bird species as determined from the BTO garden birdwatch surveys, even the Collared dove isn’t exempt from declining numbers seeing slow and small fall since 2005. One of the main factors of this is thought to be competition with the larger and stockier Wood pigeon and a disease Trichomonosis. This considered, the collared dove is still widespread, and keeping its green conservation status indicating that it is of least concern.

So perhaps like us, if you spot Collared doves this Christmas you’ll admire them for their year round parenting skills and take pleasure in seeing their in pair close relationships as they coo to each other.