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By Christiana Gouziou

Pigeons and Doves  belong to the  Columbidae family of which there are in excess of three hundred species in the world.  In the UK there are five species of which three are common; The Wood Pigeon, The Collared Dove, and The Stock Dove, of which there are two very rare ones – The Turtle Dove and The Rock Dove.

The Wood Pigeon is the most common and probably the one which is known by most, with a large size and a white patch on the side of the neck with matching white bars on the wings. They are often heard fighting in the trees  and often seen on birds table where they try to dislodge the smaller birds and even bigger ones by pecking them on the top of their heads. They are everywhere, sadly often seen dead, flattened by cars on the road. Their call is  of five notes , repeated continually and lacking enthusiasm.

The collared  dove (Streptopelia Decaocto) is easily recognised , light beige with a black stripe on the neck and black eyes with a hint of red. It is a delicate bird with a gentle  song  of three notes, the first two higher than the lower third ,  which call is easily recognised in parks, gardens and woods .The collared dove was first recorded in the UK in 1950.

The Stock Dove (Columba Oenas) is slender, mainly grey with a darker tail and a hint of light green on the neck. it nests in tree holes, rabbit holes or holes in rocks. It can occasionally be seen among wood pigeons on bird tables but does not sustain the harassment of the wood pigeons. It is a tidy , slim bird with a monotonous cooing one note repeated  five twice five times ou-ou  ou-ou  ou-ou  ou-ou  ou-ou.

Much less common and on conservation status listed Red are the Turtle Dove and the Rock Dove

The turtle Dove(Streptopelia Turtur) and the Rock Dove (Columba Livia).

The Turtle Dove , the smallest of the Doves,  slightly bigger than a Blackbird is the most beautiful of the Columbidae family, light grey with blue and black markings on the neck, chestnut and black on the back, a black tail with a slight edge of white. Its call is a gentle and peaceful purring sound.

Since 1996, the RSPB had made amazing efforts to help the turtle out of the red status as it had  dropped by 95% since 1970 and hopefully, we shall see them again one day in the UK when, with farmers’ help,  habitats and seeds will help their return.

The Rock Dove ( Columbia livia)

The Rock Dove, the ancestor of the domestic pigeon, is now  mainly found  in the North and west Scotland and Ireland where they live  on cliffs and nest in caves. It resembles the stock Dove but with a white upper rump and wider wing black stripes. Its flight is faster than the wood pigeon’s and it is often seen in  small flocks. Its call is similar to the wood pigeon’s call.

The rock dove used to be domesticated to provide food.

To many, pigeons and doves are insignificant yet ‘homing’ pigeons during the first and second world wars, because of the lack of technology, were carrier pigeons because they carried messages to the military. Nowadays they are no longer needed but many fans today breed them for distance races.

Another bird I must mention, in the times we are living and Christmas coming, is the White Dove, a domestic pigeon bred to be completely white and is a symbol of freedom, peace and love. It is present in the Symbolism of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and any pacifist group