An Essential Guide To The Eurasian Collared Dove

Collared Doves are often found cooing softly in the vicinity of our homes and workplaces or picking around nearby for food. But, they are often underappreciated because of attitudes toward feral pigeons. To make matters worse, some people are out to deter these doves from their property. So, why are Collared Doves so unpopular, how can we distinguish them from other doves and pigeons, and what else should we know about them?

Difference between Collared Dove and Woodpigeon?

The Collard Dove has a black band around its neck compared to the Wood Pigeon which has a white band and an iridescent green patch. The Wood Pigeon also has a white eye with a small dark pupil which differs from that of the Collard Dove which has an entirely dark eye. Their beaks differ also with the Wood Pigeon having a yellow beak compared to the muted grey of the Collard Dove.

First, we need to clarify which bird in your garden is the Collared Dove. There are quite likely to be two members of the pigeon family in your garden at some point, and both of them have some form of a collar around their neck.

Collard DoveFigures
FoodSeeds, grains, buds and shoots

The one with the white band of feathers at its neck, a little like a vicar’s collar, is the Woodpigeon. The Collared Dove has a band of black feathers partway around the back of the neck instead. This is their most distinguishing feature, while the Woodpigeon has many other markings and colours. So, it makes sense for the dove to be the “collared” species.

Then there is the fact that one is a dove and the other is a pigeon. There isn’t that big a difference between the two as the birds are from the same part of the avian tree. The general rule is that the larger birds are pigeons, such as the chunky Woodpigeon that often walks around the garden instead of flying, and the smaller daintier ones are the doves.

Wood PigeonFigures
FoodCrops,seeds, grains, sprouts, buds and shoots

The Collared Dove certainly fits that description as it is much smaller than the Woodpigeon. The average length of a Collared Dove is 32cm, which is comparable with other dove species. The weight can be anywhere between 125 and 240g, depending on the bird’s age and time of year. The Woodpigeon can be more than double that.

You will also see other differences between the two birds in their plumage. The Woodpigeon looks a little like a typical feral pigeon on some sort of performance-enhancing drug. Aside from that white-collar, many of the tones in the plumage are the same.

There are many blue-grey tones in the feathers, a little pinker in the breast and some green around the back of the head. The Collared Dove is more pinky-grey in colour with a more uniform look to the whole body and wings. This makes their dark eye and collar stand out.

Otherwise, the physical features are quite similar. The wing and body proportions are close, they have short legs that are often a little scaly in texture, and they have a rounded head with a narrow bill.

How Does It Compare With Other Doves In The UK?

That uniform look to the feathers of the Collared Dove makes it pretty unique compared with other doves. Those species have the multicoloured look you associate with pigeons and share similar markings and tones.

These include many blue-grey tones, pick chests, green patches, and a little black and white. But, there are exceptions. For example, the Turtle Dove has a more chestnut tone to the feathers on the back and some strong black markings to help distinguish it.

There is also the fact that you aren’t so likely to see the other species in your garden. There is the potential for Stock Doves in gardens in some areas where they feel they can get a chance to feed. These birds are less plentiful and easy to mistake for feral pigeons but do occur across the UK.

Those feral pigeons are the descendants of the Rock Dove and do not reside only on the cliffs of Scotland and Ireland. Finally, that pretty Turtle Dove is a rare migrant in Southern England and struggling due to persecution.

Why Do Some People Dislike Collared Doves?

When you Google Collared Dove, you will probably see as many related search terms about how to get rid of them as there are for people wanting to learn about them. There are even people asking is it OK to shoot Collared Doves.

While it is technically legal to do so, there is no need to point a gun at this nuisance bird, even with the following considerations in mind. One reason that people want to scare away Collared Doves, and Woodpigeons, for that matter, is because they can be a pain in the neck if you are a keen gardener. Woodpigeons are in the same camp here, as they will both take shoots and the beginnings of crops in a garden if you aren’t careful in protecting them.

Some garden owners also fear that these larger pigeons will deter songbirds from coming to feed. This isn’t necessarily the case, as bird species of different kinds can coexist with local pigeons when suitable habitats and food resources are available.

Another reason people are keen to get rid of Collared Doves is that they are carriers of disease and parasites. These infectious pests can end up passed around birds in the garden, primarily when birds use the same feeder time and time again.

Collared Doves are responsible for Trichomonas gallinae and pigeon paramyxovirus type 1. The former is a big problem when it comes to declining finch numbers, so there are hopes that controlled dove numbers may help those species bounce back. The latter is a disease that could affect poultry, which is an economic concern for the meat and egg industries.

Finally, there is the fact that Collared Doves are not native birds. They are classed as an invasive species and, with these developments, a harmful invasive species. They certainly don’t seem like it when you watch them in gardens and city centres.

Yet, the first recorded sighting was as recent as 1953 and the first successful brood in the UK came in 1956. Some argue that they shouldn’t be here and that a cull is a suitable measure. This is a divisive topic similar to the proposed measures for the Ring-Necked Parakeet.

That is another bird that colonised the UK around the same time. Although, that was an accidental introduction more than a natural one due to the passage of birds and territory expansions.

How Many Collared Doves Are There In The UK?

Even if you feel you don’t see many of these birds throughout your week, there are plenty of them around. Of course, the numbers don’t come close to the Woodpigeons, which are in the millions, but they still have a lot of territories across the country. The BTO estimates that there are around 810,000 pairs of Collard Doves across the country. So while there has been a slight decline in previous years, it is still a pretty healthy population.

Where Can You Find Collared Doves Away From Gardens?

Collared Doves are a more common bird than you may realise in rural and urban areas. We may be so used to seeing feral pigeons in towns and cities that these delicate doves go unnoticed up in the trees or picking around the ground in parks. However, you can also find quite a lot of them in farmland areas and any land nearby with the availability of food being a factor.

What Do Collared Doves Eat?

Collard Doves have a similar diet to Woodpigeons and will readily feed on crops and grains. This includes food left out on our bird tables and under feeders.

Collared Doves are a lot like their Woodpigeon cousins in that they will take advantage of crops to get grains and nutritious shoots. They will exploit a good food resource and seek out vegetable matter where they can find it.

This is partly why they like our gardens so much. But, they are also right at home on farmland, where they can find large quantities of seed and grain in stores. Typically, you will only see Collared Doves in pairs, especially in urban areas with more competition.

But, they can flock together in these farmland areas and may even mingle with the Woodpigeons where they aren’t competing over the food. This should provide more safety in numbers.

You will also find that Collared Doves will come and take food from bird tables or pick at the seed that has fallen on the ground. Considering the issues above, it is understandable if you don’t want to put anything specifically for these birds.

But, they are still free to come and pick at anything they might want. They may take advantage of any fat-based items in winter. Please don’t feed them leftovers or bread and this can be damaging.

The Nesting Habits Of Collared Doves

Collared Doves are unlikely to nest in your garden unless you have a suitable mature tree that isn’t occupied by someone else. These larger doves aren’t going to nest in nest boxes and wouldn’t appreciate the structure of those boxes anyway. Their nests are pretty bare and basic, to the point where you wonder how anything survives. It is basically just a pile of sticks where they can lay their eggs, incubate them, and raise the chicks as best they can.

Still, the simplicity does mean less time nest building and more time for extra broods. Three or four a year isn’t uncommon and they may even try for six. The other secret to this success and the ability to go for multiple broods is that these doves are monogamous.

They will pair up and continue to establish their bonds, mating and raising chicks year after year as best they can. The strength of the partnership is tested through the year as the breeding season can be quite long. They need to time the clutches with an abundance of food as best they can to avoid struggling in colder months.

Another reason why they go for 4 to 6 broods is that the female will only lay two eggs at a time. This means far fewer chicks per year than some songbirds. Curiously, the pair share the incubation duties, with the female doing so during the night and the male during the day. This shift pattern continues for between 14 and 18 days, then the eggs will hatch and the focus turns to feeding. The young should fledge after 15 to 19 days.

Why Don’t You See Baby Doves?

As a general rule, these birds are pretty close to the same size as the adults when they fledge and have their adult feathers in place. So, they won’t look that young at all. The key difference with the Collared Dove is that the young lack definition in the collar.

How Long Do Collared Dove Live?

The average life expectancy of a Collared Dove is just 3 years old. However, this is the average between those who die before adulthood and those who are lucky enough to live for much longer. The oldest bird ever recorded was 17, which is still relatively young compared to other species. There is no guarantee that a dove will make it through its first year due to a combination of factors, such as a lack of food, cold winters, or predation.

One of the many broods laid in those simple nests could be lost quickly if bad weather damaged the nest. This isn’t the cosy lined structure of much smaller birds.

There are also threats to the lives of these birds into adulthood. As mentioned before, some humans would rather not have these birds around and perhaps can’t tell the difference between these doves and other pigeon species.

Meanwhile, there are risks of predation from large raptors and mammals. Sparrowhawks and Peregrines could make an easy meal of one of these, while foxes or even domestic cats may take an unsuspecting or injured bird. There are many risks when you are a Collared Dove, but those who flock together and find the best habitats can thrive.

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I'm Wayne. For many years, I have been a fan of feeding the birds in my back garden and often asked myself questions about what I was seeing. This prompted me to research things further and I have continued to do so ever since. This is the site where I share everything I have learned.

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