8 collared dove facts you need to know

Discover 8 fascinating facts about the BTO September Garden Bird of the Month. 

Collared dove
© John Harding/BTO


1 Recent arrival

The collared dove bred for the first time in Britain in 1955 in Norfolk. Before 1930 it was confined to Turkey and the Balkans in Europe, but in 20 years it rapidly expanded its range, potentially due to the dispersal behaviour of young individuals.

2 Intrepid travellers

Young collared doves have been known to travel over 600km away from where they were born. These epic journeys, made all over Europe, tend to be in a northwest direction, reflecting the direction of the range expansion in the 20th century.

3 Prolific breeders

One reason behind the collared dove’s success is its ability to breed year-round, if the weather is mild. They may also start a new nest before the previous young are independent with the female using breaks from incubation to feed recently fledged offspring.

4 Simple nests

Collared dove nests usually just consist of a platform of sticks – no construction prizes here! They usually nest in trees or shrubs but will also use buildings, favouring ledges, guttering, and the brackets of security lights or satellite dishes.

© John Harding

Collared doves are easily recognised by the black half-collar on their necks.  © John Harding/BTO

5 Identifying collared doves

Collared doves are smaller and more delicate-looking than woodpigeons, with creamy grey-buff plumage. Adults have a black half-collar on the back of their necks. Their typical call is a clear and persistent three note ‘coo Coo cuk’ which some people think sounds like ‘un-i-ted’.

6 In decline

The British collared dove population started to decline in 2005, though it is still one of the top 10 most common birds seen in BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens. The decline could be due to increasing woodpigeon numbers as the two potentially compete for resources, though it is thought that the disease trichomonosis may also be a cause.

7 What’s in a name?

The scientific name of the collared dove is Streptopelia decaocto. The first part comes from the Greek ‘streptos’, meaning collar and ‘peleia’ meaning dove. The second part is less straight-forward and comes from a Greek myth about a maid complaining about her very low wage of ‘decaocto’ (eighteen) pieces. The dove was created by the gods to shame her mistress.

8 Perfect print

If you’ve ever seen a detailed print where a bird has flown into a window, it’s probably a collared dove. Their feathers are so dusty that, on a window imprint, you can often see the detail of individual feathers, the beak and even the eyelids. 

The British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) works in partnership with over 40,000 volunteer birdwatchers to chart the fortunes of UK birds.

Among the surveys that we coordinate is our popular Garden BirdWatch, the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world.

Each month we highlight a bird for you to look out for in your garden.

For more information about Garden BirdWatch or to speak to the Garden Ecology Team please email gbw@bto.org


Read previous BTO Garden Bird of the Month blogs.

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