Monday, October 19, 2015

Collared Dove

The collared dove is a regular breeder in the Maltese islands. It bred for the first time in 2003 at Santa Marija Estate in Mellieħa. Now it is breeding in many other areas. It builds its nest in trees close in urban areas, often close to buildings. The best places to see collared doves are at San Anton Gardens and the President’s kitchen garden, the Addolorata Cemetery, Buskett Gardens, and at the Għadira Nature Reserve and surrounding fields.

In Maltese the collared dove is called gamiema tal-kullar because it is closely related to the turtle dove which in Maltese is called gamiema.

Collared doves have a long breeding season and remain faithful to each other. At this time of the year they are busy courting and building their nests. During courtship the male climbs vertically close to a female and then glides downward in a circle holding the wings held under the body in the shape of an inverted V. At this time you can also hear collared doves cooing, a sound that in some places has become synonymous with spring.    

The collared dove is non-migratory but has been expanding its range since the beginning of the 20th century. It first appeared in Eastern Europe and by 1945 it reached Germany and in 1956 bred for the first time in Great Britain. By the end of the last century it was breeding throughout North Africa.

Although the collared dove is closely related to the turtle dove they differ from each other because while the collared dove is a resident species the turtle dove is fully migratory and flies all the way from Europe to Africa and back every year. They also differ because the collared dove breeds close to buildings where hunting is not allowed while the turtle dove prefers more rural habitats where shooting is allowed.

Because of this the turtle dove has never become a breeding bird and although it has tried to breed several times it never managed to so because of spring hunting.

This aricle was published in the Times of Malta on 2 April 2015.

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