Friends volunteer, popular guide and bird expert Trevor Gunton introduces the next in this series of informative articles.

Image by hedera.baltica, CC BY-SA 2.0


Unknown in the UK before 1955, the Collared Dove has rapidly become one of our most familiar birds.

Its spectacular spread seems hardly credible in that it has expanded its breeding range from the Balkans to the North Sea islands, such as the UK in just 20 short years-but its actual distribution is almost worldwide, taking in India, the Middle East, China, Korea and it also has a small population introduced into Japan.

The birds march across Europe took it to Hungary in 1932, Austria, 1938. Germany 1943 (I wonder who had time to count birds during the war?), Sweden in 1948, Norway 1952 and by the early 1970s, it had reached Iceland.

How amazing is this story?

We might ask the question – why?

Well, when they reached the UK, the Collared Dove clearly found an ecological “niche” not filled by any other bird species, and in the absence of competition they have clearly thrived – filling a gap in the market as we say!

Following the rapid UK spread from 1955 it took just 5 years for them to spread to Shetland, one year before this we got our first Yorkshire record from a garden in North Leeds-actually in my neighbour’s garden, but not seen by me. I well remember a birdwatching coach outing to the coast being diverted to a remote East Riding Village, so we could all see the first breeding Collared Doves.

We came to Little Paxton in 1968 to find that Collared Doves had beaten me by 3 years, Tebbutt listed them as breeding for the first time in “old” Huntingdonshire in 1965 and just 2 years later about 300 pairs were breeding in the “new” integrated county of Cambridgeshire.

Despite being essentially a bird of parkland and gardens seemingly rather dependant upon man-certainly in winter-it has become a rather controversial species on farmland and in grain yards in the Fens. In 1979 RSPB had reports of Collared Doves being poisoned in large numbers, along with Wood Pigeons and other species.

So, in the last 24 years our bird had gone from being a new breeding species to a supposed pest.

Today the Collared Dove is, according to the BTO  the 24th commonest bird in the UK with just under one million breeding pairs – the continued spread may now be limited to the availability of new breeding sites, certainly in the UK, we know from around the Scottish islands just about every village has breeding Collared Doves-so very little room for expansion.

In the past times, we hardly ever saw the Collared Doves around the Visitor Centre of feeding stations – they are now seen every day.

This is a remarkable success story, which has taken our bird from Turkey to your garden, along with Wood Pigeons and House Sparrows.

Just take time out to appreciate and value what an amazing bird it is!

Fact File

  • Nests on buildings, trees and bushes-prefers conifers
  • Nesting period-March-October
  • Eggs-white-usually 2
  • Incubation 14/16 days
  • Fledging 15/17 days

Comments from visitors at the V.C.:

  • Can you eat them?
  • Who introduced the Collared Dove into the UK? (no-one)
  • Could I have heard a Cuckoo in Feb? (no – it would have been a Collared Dove)


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