Doves and More Doves

IMG_2852.JPGEurasian Collared Doves


Lily B came to me almost 25 years ago. I had always wanted a bird but my ambivalence about caging had prevented me from acquiring an avian companion. My personal bias underwent a radical change when I read that African collared doves were imported into this country to parent exotic birds because they were such good parents, and after they grew too old they were set free to fend for themselves. A few small flocks survived this harsh treatment. The fact that they were considered to be “trash birds” distressed me deeply and when I discovered it was possible to acquire one of these doves for $5.00, I ordered one.


Lily B is a cream colored dove with an unusual pale lavender tint to his plump body. With penetrating red eyes and a throaty triple coo, Lily loves to sun bathe in the early morning sun, and is keenly interesting in cooking. He spends a fair amount of time in the kitchen, and prefers Havarti cheese as his daily snack. He roosts in hanging baskets.


When I came to Abiquiu Lily accompanied me (he has never been caged) and his melodious singing brought a close relative of his, the Eurasian Collared dove, to our bird feeding station.


The two are almost impossible to distinguish unless one listens carefully to their calls. African collared doves have a deep throated song, while Eurasian doves have a similar triple coo that lacks the rich tone. African collared doves can also occasionally be spotted in this area but sightings are quite rare, and it is usually the Eurasian collared doves that we see this time of year in pairs.


Like Lily, the Eurasian doves have buff colored, robust bodies, startling red eyes that look black from a distance, red legs, and a black ring that circles their necks in a horseshow shape leaving a gap at the throat. If you think that you have spotted an African collared dove listen to the call. If the triple coo is soft it is a Eurasian collared dove and if it is deep and resonant then you are listening to an African collared dove.


The Eurasian dove is native to Asia and was introduced into North America in the 1980’s. Presently this bird is found throughout the U.S. except (oddly) in the northeast. They forage on the ground for seeds and insects, and sometimes eat berries. Collared doves typically breed close to human habitation wherever food resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting. The males have a harsh two syllable territorial warning call. Both males and females sing and the female adopts the mating song of her mate. The male chooses the nesting area, the female decides upon the exact site. The male builds the nest. The female lays two white eggs in the casual stick – laden structure, and both parents sit on the eggs. Fledglings become independent within a month. Both parents feed the young regurgitated pigeon milk. Four to six broods a year are common in southern areas.


I have at least half a dozen pairs living here in the cottonwoods along the river and early in the morning there is a cacophony of musical coo- COO –coos and fluttering of wings as the birds land on the ground both inside and outside my house!