Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The timid dove

You can consider yourself lucky if you have watched Stock Doves (Columba oenas) around. Compared with the obvious Woodpigeons and Collared Doves, and the tame ever present feral pigeons, Stock Doves are shy and unobstrusive. Their general dove-like appearance makes them almost invisible despite being relatively frequent in towns and villages. Although dull-grey from a distance, this dove is quite delicate at close range. It is shorter tailed and smaller than the Woodpigeon, being similar in size to the feral pigeon, but its dark wing bars are thinner and shorter and its eyes are dark, giving it a gentle expression. It has got an iridescent neck patch, shining green or violet, and an orange and pink beak. Unlike its relatives, it breeds on holes and therefore tends to occur linked to mature trees in parks and tree lined avenues with large gardens, although it also uses nest boxes (a couple used the owl box in the tree outside our house a few years back).
 Today, a rapid, persistent almost hiccupy cooing (uh, cu-uc! uh, cu-uc!) of a Stock Dove came from the large cypresses next to the park conservatory and a bird alighted on top of a nest box, giving me a rare photo opportunity.

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