The Spotted Dove is March Bird of the Month.
The Spotted Dove, or as it was previously called, the Spotted Turtle Dove, is an introduced species which does not seem to have made too much of a pest of itself in Australia. It is a long-tailed, slender dove, usually seen individually, in pairs or small feeding groups on the ground, or more often, perched at rest in a tree, fence, or electricity wires. Their cooing calls, with a distinct vibration in them, are a familiar sound.
They are light brown on their upper parts, with dark centres to the feathers of the back and wings, and their throat and under parts are pinkish grey. They have a grey face, and a very distinctive black collar on the back of the neck, speckled with white spots. The sexes appear similar, while young birds will have a grey collar.
The Spotted Dove was introduced into Australia’s capital cities during the second half of the nineteenth century from its home range in India, Sri Lanka, southern China and south-east Asia. They are still largely restricted to pockets around the capital cities and larger urban areas, and have not had as negative an impact as other introduced species, such as the Rock Dove, which we just call “Pigeons”, or the Common Myna, with both species being referred to as “Flying Rats”.
But it is suspected that they have displaced some native doves, such as the similar looking Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis, in Sydney, and the Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida in Adelaide. 10 Spotted Doves released from an aviary in Alice Springs in the 1990’s have led to them now being treated as a pest species there.
It is possible that in Sydney the arrival of the Crested Pigeon from its former inland range is having a limiting effect on the Spotted Dove population.
Grass seed and grains make up the bulk of the Spotted Dove diet, but they will take advantage of bread, food scraps or pet food. Perhaps as a defensive strategy they spend most of their time perched at rest, and when they come to the ground to feed they collect their food with a rapid pecking motion, much faster than other pigeons seen in the park.
Spotted Doves may breed at any time of year if conditions are favourable, but generally will nest in spring and summer. They form monogamous pairs. To entice the female the male performs a display by flying high into the air, then gliding back down with wing and tail feathers spread. He will also perform a head-bobbing dance in front of the female with his black and white collar fluffed up.
The nest is a very basic platform of sticks, grass and rootlets hidden in the foliage of a tree or shrub. Two eggs are usually laid with incubation shared by the pair for about 15 days, and after hatching the chicks are constantly cared for in the nest for about a week, and fed for another week before they fledge and leave the nest. Often the doves will immediately begin another clutch of eggs as soon as the young have left the nest.
In the Park:
Spotted Doves are breeding residents throughout the parklands, although not seen in the numbers of the Crested Pigeons or Rock Doves. They are a beautiful bird to watch as they feed or display, and to hear as they softly “coco-coo” in the background.