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Eurasian Collared Dove

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Eurasian Collared Dove

Mike Turnlund introduces you to the new neighbors in A Bird in Hand

We have some new neighbors in town and they are not the “usual” types. They are a bit flashy in appearance, and while they keep to themselves and are polite to the point of fault, they are, uhm... different. They make strange sounds! Sometimes I walk by their place of residence and, well, to put it bluntly someone needs to close the window! But since we can’t always pick our neighbors I guess the best bet is get to know them better—in spite of their oddities. So let me introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Dove, or the Eurasian Collard Doves. Yes, they are not only new to town, but to the continent!

The Eurasian Collard Dove is our newest immigrant. Originally from southern Asia and the Middle East, for some unknown reason this species began to spread into Europe in the 1930s. By the 1950s they had reached Great Britain and now breed throughout Europe, nesting even above the Arctic Circle. So how did these birds get to our side of the globe? In the mid-1970s they were introduced into the Bahamas. In less than a decade they had reached Florida, though at first no one noticed. Another non-native dove, the Turtle Dove, had also established a breeding population in south Florida. These were probably all escaped pets. The Turtle Dove and the Collard Dove are very similar to the point that, except for size and voice, they can be virtually indistinguishable. When ornithologists noted the explosion in this invasive dove population and the rapid expansion of its range, they took a closer look. They discovered that this bustling new immigrant wasn’t a Turtle Dove, but the Eurasian Collard Dove. Today this pretty bird ranges from Florida to Alaska and from coast to coast. 

So why has this species been so successful? What is driving its manic expansion? That is a good question and one that ornithologists are still discussing.  One theory suggests that it is exploiting an ecological niche that hasn’t been filled since the extirpation of the Passenger Pigeon. I do not know if this theory can be supported, but the Collard Dove does not appear to compete with the other dove and pigeon species. In fact, so far there is no evidence that the Collard Dove is putting any pressure on either native or non-native species. This bird appears to prefer the spaces between the large urban centers—the domain of the Rock pigeon (what most people think of when they hear the word ‘pigeon’)—and the open regions of farmlands and pastures—those preferred by the Mourning Dove. This Collard Dove complements both by competing with neither.  

So what does this beauty look like? The non-discerning might confuse it with a Mourning Dove, thought it is heavier in build and larger. A very light fawn or buff color dominates and it has a distinctive half-collar on the nape of its neck, hence its name, like a fat horseshoe draped around the neck. The soft collars are accented by the dark wing tips. In contrast, the Mourning Dove is a few shades darker overall, especially the wings. The Mourning Dove also has that distinctive dark speckling on the wing primaries. 

The tails of the two species are also quite different, especially when noted in flight. Whereas the Mourning Dove sports an elegantly pointed tip, the Collard Dove makes do with a blunt fan. 

The sounds these birds make is a field mark in its own right. The Collard Dove will coo somewhat like a Mourning Dove, but it is notably different. In fact, the bird’s call might be what gets your attention. It is similar to a Mourning Dove, but different enough to for it to register in your mind that something is amiss. The Collard Dove coos in groups of three, with an emphasis on the middle note, though the third note may not be distinctive from a distance. What is really odd is the weird shrieking the birds occasionally make—completely out of character from what one would expect from such a gentle creature. Reminds me of a crabby mother yelling at her teenage daughter. Take it someplace else, please! 

We’ve got new neighbors moving in, but these are a welcome addition to the community. Keep your eyes peeled for them. They’re worth meeting. Happy birding! 

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Author info

Michael Turnlund Michael Turnlund is a Sandpoint resident who teaches at Clark Fork High School. An avid birder, he's happy to share his knowledge of the area's avian wildlife

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Eurasian collared dove, A Bird in Hand

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