Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Irish Garden Birds - Classy Collared Doves

We're in the final stretch of this winters Garden Bird Survey - let us know how you're getting on and if you've seen anything unusual or unexpected in your gardens. Two-thirds of you are likely to have had a visit from this very elegant bird - the Collared Dove!


Species Profile: Collared Dove

As Gaeilge: ‘Fearán baicdhubh’

Irish Garden Bird Survey Ranking 2016/17: 17th place

Conservation status: Green-listed in Ireland and 'secure' at European level.

Collared Dove. Note the red eye. Photo by B Burke.

Did You know?

  1. We’ve only had Collared Doves in Ireland since 1959. They were formerly restricted to warm temperature and subtropical parts of Asia, but they expanded their range rapidly in the 20th century and are now found throughout western Europe.
  2. In the 1970’s a captive flock of Collared Doves escaped in the Bahamas. This Eurasian species is now an invasive species in the Americas and can be found in almost all states in the U.S.A..

  3. Like other pigeons, Collared Doves can breed all year round though they are unlikely to breed in colder months in places like Ireland. They can have 3 or 4 broods per year, usually laying two eggs each time. The eggs take two weeks to hatch, and the chicks can fledge at 2-3 weeks old, which is a pretty quick turnaround for a bird of it’s size!

  4. Flocks of up to 10,000 Collared Doves have been recorded in Hungary!

  5. Pigeons and Doves are in the bird family ‘Columbidae’ and there is no consistent distinction between doves and pigeons.
Collared Dove. Photo by D. Coombes

How long do they live?
The oldest known Collared Dove in Ireland and Britain was over 18 years old, which unfortunately died after hitting a building. On average though, they live to around 3 years old.

What do they feed on? 
Collared Doves mostly feed on cereal grain and seeds, with some fruits of herbs and grasses and occasionally some invertebrates when available. Some bird seed mixes have a lot of grain which is often ignored by species like Goldfinches and Blue Tits, but will be hoovered up by Collared Doves and other Pigeon species.

Collared Dove, sitting in the seed tray of a bird feeder. Photo by P. Walsh

Irish Garden Bird Survey Trends:

Collared Doves have been very consistent since the Garden Bird Survey was revamped in the mid-1990’s, ranking somewhere between 15th and 20th place each year; being recorded in 60% of gardens on average each year. Back in the mid-1990’s most people were only lucky enough to have one Collared Dove visiting their garden, but as the years have passed more and more gardens are getting a pair visiting each winter – see the graph below.

Max. number of Collared Doves recorded in gardens each winter.

Movements and Migration:
As you can see from the map above, our Collared Doves don’t tend to move much.They tend to move west as young birds, which helped their spread through Europe and eventual colonisation of Ireland, but it means our birds don't tend to go the other way.

Most Collared Doves are recorded near human habitation – towns, villages and farm buildings – and they rarely wander far!  

Collared Doves from Ireland and the UK recorded in Europe via ringing studies - see https://blx1.bto.org/ring/countyrec/resultsall/rec6840all.htm

How can I help Collared Doves?
Collared Doves make a very basic nest – a platform of twigs – usually in a tree but sometimes in a building where there’s a suitable base available, but they’re not a species that will take to nestboxes. As mentioned above though, they do enjoy seeds and cereals so consider scattering some bird food on the ground in your garden to feed them.

Collared Dove. Photo by B. Burke

As with all of our Irish birds, one of the most important steps you can take to protect them is to become a member of BirdWatch Ireland. By becoming a member you add your voice to our conservation and policy work and help us let people, groups and politicians know that you care about our wildlife and want to see it looked after. Last year our staff put in countless hours to lobby against the destructive Heritage Bill that could have a significant impact on many of our most recognisable and sensitive birds. We couldn’t have done this without our members!

For full details on what you get as part of your membership, see here.

Your BirdWatch Ireland Membership Pack


  1. Thanks for info. I have two Collared Doves in my garden since last year. Never wander too far from the house. Very tame.

  2. Two Collared Doves in our garden, Co. Waterford, for past 19 years! One year we noticed three occasionally. They appear to live in a tall coniferous tree across the road.


The Irish Garden Bird Survey is over for another winter!

Time flies when you're having fun! The 2018/19 Irish Garden Bird Survey is now over! It's been quite a mild winter overall...