In this video we cover everything you need to know about collared doves. If you enjoy these fact file style videos then be sure to have a look at the other British wildlife fact files over on the channel.
Collared doves are in the top 15 most common garden birds in the UK but that has not always been the case. In fact, they only first started breeding in this country in 1956 when a pair was spotted nesting in North Norfolk. Unlike a lot of recent additions to the UK countryside, collared doves arrived here naturally after spreading across Europe from their original range in Asia.
They are quite small compared to other UK pigeons with a wingspan of just 50 cm and growing to weights of around 200grams. Adults are dark beige with a distinctive black collar around the back of their necks. Young birds and nestlings are a similar colour but they do not have the collar. They also have red eyes and washed out pink feet and legs.
Collared doves will eat a wide range of foods but this is always plant based. This includes buds, shoots, seeds and grains which the bird swallows and stores in a small pouch in their throat known as a crop. From their the food is gradually moved down to the stomach for digestion. This allows them to eat a lot in one sitting and then sustain themselves for a longer period of time than if they were digesting the food as they go. The crops have another purpose too, for producing milk to feed the chicks.
Collared doves can nest throughout the year, creating a small flimsy platform of twigs upon which they lay 2 white eggs. These are around 3 cm long and just over 2cm wide. The parents take turns to incubate them for 16 days with the female taking the day shift and the male incubating them overnight. Their chicks are known as squabs and when they first hatch out they are covered in yellow downy fluff. As mentioned before the parents can produce a special liquid in their crops known as crop milk which they regurgitate for the squabs. This is highly nutritious and helps them to grow fast, sometimes they are fully feathered and ready to leave the nest after just 3 weeks. Once they have left the nest, the parents will feed them for a further 2 weeks and then they are completely independent. The young birds then disperse from the nesting area, sometimes traveling as far as 600km from where they hatched.
There are currently thought to be just under a million pairs of collared doves in the UK but over the last 10 years their numbers seem to be dropping slightly. Its been suggested that this is down to increasing competition for resources with wood pigeons but collared doves are also very susceptible to a parasite called trichomoniasis which if untreated is fatal. If all goes well collared doves can be quite long-lived with several birds recorded as living to 17 years of age.
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