The Dove of Love

There is a lot of interesting stuff to know about the Collared Dove but the thing that has put it in my mind today is the rain. It is tipping down outside and rain has no empathy. It brings life to many and death to many others. Caterpillars are being washed of the bushes (as if they didn’t have enough to worry about) and that is bad news for the Blue Tits who are trying to feed their young as well as the flies who are looking for a place to lay theirs.

Collared Doves are less at the mercy of the weather, they have a different way of feeding their young.

Collared Dove

“Crop Milk” (Obviously if you are a pigeon fancier you will already know all about crop milk) All of our dove’s and pigeons produce it and the only other birds that do this are the Flamingo and Penguin. So in the UK it is just the doves.

Collared DoveCrop Milk, also known as Pigeon Milk is a secretion from the lining of the crop so let us start with “What’s a crop?”

A crop is part of a bird’s digestive system, it is a pouch in the esophagus (the tube that goes from mouth to stomach) that is primarily used to store excess food that the bird can’t fit in it’s stomach. A “Doggy Bag” for birds that dine. It enables a bird to take some food home for later.

Collared Dove

Lot’s, but not all, of birds have crops. Eagles, Hawks and Gulls all have them and so do some other species like snails and earthworms but only our pigeons and doves produce crop milk from them.

As I said Crop Milk is a secretion produced in the crop. It is not like mammal milk. Both the male and female bird produce it and both feed their young. It looks more like cottage cheese than milk and is much richer in protein and fat than mammal milk.

People who keep Pigeons can buy formula Crop Milk to raise their squabs.

Collared DoveThe other thing that fascinates me about the Collared Dove is their arrival here in the UK. They only arrived here in the 1950’s and the first breeding pair were recorded in Norfolk in 1955.

They came from Turkey and the Middle East where they lived happily for hundreds, maybe thousands of years (Evolution doesn’t happen quickly). Then suddenly around 1900 they decided to go and see the world. They spread rapidly across Europe and ended up here in the 50’s. I just wonder why they all suddenly got the wanderlust?

Collared Dove

A brood normally consists of just two eggs but they can breed throughout the year. Three or four broods would be normal but six are possible.

They are welcome visitors to the garden. They don’t come here in large numbers. We have a resident pair and sometimes there are a few other birds that drop by.

A brood normally consists of just two eggs but they can breed throughout the year. Three or four broods would be normal but six are possible.


3 thoughts on “The Dove of Love”

  1. These doves made it to the US in the 1970s and have been steadily spreading out through the southern and southeastern coastal states since. They were familiar, if not overly numerous, presences everywhere I lived in the region. They’ve found a niche that does no harm there; there are several species of dove in the US, but none are so closely tied to humans as these. I suspect that they’ll start declining now that Mourning Doves (which number in the millions there) are well-adjusted to life around humans and will become more direct competitors.


    1. Thanks for the comment. I had never heard of Mourning Doves (I don’t get out much) but I have been reading about them since you posted this. Although there seem to be a lot of Mourning Doves over there reading people’s comments about doves nesting in their gardens and so on, I get the impression that they behave very similarly to Collared Doves. They visit gardens in small numbers and seem to be welcome visitors. Two birds filling the same niche but the US is a vast place. Collared Doves breed like Mourning Doves and they spread across the UK very quickly, it sounds like conditions are perfect for them in the US and I expect them to prosper. Thanks for telling me about Mourning Doves.


      1. One of the things I’ve quickly learned since getting here is that I have to sharply adjust my conceptions of large bird populations and what constitutes a common bird. When I said there are millions of Mourning Doves there, I wasn’t exaggerating; I underestimated, in fact. There are hundreds of millions.

        Via the Cornell University birding site: ‘The Mourning Dove is the most widespread and abundant game bird in North America. Every year hunters harvest more than 20 million, but the Mourning Dove remains one of our most abundant birds with a U.S. population estimated at 350 million.’

        Estimates of Collared Doves are a lot more modest, around 400,000. Hunters kill 50 times that many Mourning Doves each year without denting them. The initial worry there was about the Mourning Doves, of course, as is proper when an invasive species arrives. They’re doing fine, though, in part because of that sheer force of numbers; I saw flocks of hundreds and even thousands of Mourning Doves daily in Louisiana. I never saw more than two Collared Doves at a time, and nowhere near daily.

        They also don’t entirely share a niche; Mournings are still mostly birds of woods and farmland, and Collareds are almost exclusively urban there. Things are going to get hairier for them as more Mourning Doves urbanize, which is happening. Their saving grace may be that they’re comfortable with one another and will flock together. I don’t know if they interbreed; if they do, that may do in the Collareds there more than anything else could.

        (If you didn’t come across recordings of a Mourning Dove’s call, it’s worth looking for — an absolutely beautiful sound.)


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