The Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), most often simply called the collared dove, also sometimes hyphenated as Eurasian collared-dove, is a species of dove native to Asia and Europe, and also recently introduced in North America.
The collared dove is not migratory, but is strongly dispersive. Over the last century, it has been one of the great colonisers of the bird world. Its original range at the end of the 19th century was warm temperate and subtropical Asia from Turkey east to southern China and south through India to Sri Lanka. In 1838 it was reported in Bulgaria, but not until the 20th century did it expand across Europe, appearing in parts of the Balkans between 1900–1920, and then spreading rapidly northwest, reaching Germany in 1945, Great Britain by 1953 (breeding for the first time in 1956), Ireland in 1959, and the Faroe Islands in the early 1970s. Subsequent spread was ‘sideways’ from this fast northwest spread, reaching northeast to north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and east to the Ural Mountains in Russia, and southwest to the Canary Islands and northern Africa from Morocco to Egypt, by the end of the 20th century. In the east of its range, it has also spread northeast to most of central and northern China, and locally (probably introduced) in Japan. It has also reached Iceland as a vagrant (41 records up to 2006), but has not colonised successfully there.
There are two subspecies, Streptopelia decaocto decaocto in most of the range (including all of the 20th century colonisations), and Streptopelia decaocto xanthocyclus in the southeast of the range from Burma east to southern China. The latter differs in having yellow skin around the eye (white in the nominate subspecies). Two other subspecies formerly sometimes accepted, Streptopelia decaocto stoliczkae from Turkestan in central Asia, and Streptopelia decaocto intercedens from southern India and Sri Lanka, are now considered synonyms of S. d. decaocto.
Collared doves typically breed close to human habitation wherever food resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting; almost all nests are within 1 km (0.62 mi) of inhabited buildings. The female lays two white eggs in a stick nest, which she incubates during the night and which the male incubates during the day. Incubation lasts between 14 and 18 days, with the young fledging after 15 to 19 days. Breeding occurs throughout the year when abundant food is available, though only rarely in winter in areas with cold winters such as northeastern Europe. Three to four broods per year is common, although up to six broods in a year has been recorded.
The male’s mating display is a ritual flight, which, as many other pigeons, consists of a rapid, near-vertical climb to height followed by a long glide downward in a circle, with the wings held below the body in an inverted “V” shape. At all other times, flight is typically direct using fast and clipped wing beats and without use of gliding.
The collared dove is not wary and often feeds very close to human habitation, including visiting bird tables; the largest populations are typically found around farms where spilt grain is frequent around grain stores or where livestock are fed. It is a gregarious species and sizeable winter flocks will form where there are food supplies such as grain (its main food) as well as seeds, shoots and insects. Flocks most commonly number between ten and fifty, but flocks of up to ten thousand have been recorded.
The song is a coo-COO-coo, repeated many times. It is phonetically similar to the Greek decaocto (“eighteen”), to which the bird owes its zoological name. It also makes a raspy, breathy, rough sounding call lasting about two seconds, particularly in flight just before landing. A way to describe the sound is a heyyyy (given before acts like eating, bathing, courting, etc.).
Collared doves cooing in early spring are sometimes mistakenly reported as the calls of early-arriving cuckoos and, as such, a mistaken sign of spring’s return.
They are almost always seen in pairs and, like many birds, remain loyal to their mates.