Nature Nugget – Dove Invasion

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is a medium-sized, pale grayish-brown dove with a black collar on the back of the neck. It was originally native to the Indian subcontinent with a slight extension over to Turkey. During the sixteenth century, the Collared-Dove spread through Asia Minor and the Balkans. Recently, it has undergone an explosive range expansion throughout Europe and most of North America.

Over a 44-year period during the past century, the Collared-Dove expanded its range westward by 1,800 miles, covering most of Europe at an average rate of 41 miles per year. They now occur as far north as Iceland and above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Colonization occurred in jumps of several hundred miles at a time with subsequent back filling. It is currently still expanding its range into Russia and the Iberian Peninsula.

During the early 1970s, an order was placed to Great Britain from the Bahamas for some Ringed Turtle-Doves, a similar looking domesticated relative of the Collared-Dove. Unable to fill this order, the supplier sent Eurasian Collared-Doves instead. In 1974, as the result of an aviary break-in, about 50 of these birds were released into the wild. Over the next ten years, their population reached around 10,000 birds, and they started spreading to other islands. By the mid-1980s, they reached Miami, Florida, on the North American mainland. From there, their colonization of North America has been very rapid. Now, almost 20 years later, they currently have an almost continuous population extending from Florida north to Indiana and west through the Great Plains. They are still spreading north and west, and there are now records of sightings as far away as Minnesota, Washington, and Nevada. There is a separate introduced population in coastal southern California that is starting to spread also.

Fortunately, the Eurasian Collared-Dove does not seem to be competing with the native North American doves but seems to be occupying an empty ecological niche in our environment created by man. They prefer suburban areas of towns and cities where they frequent bird feeders and ornamental plantings found in people’s yards. They feed on agricultural grains, leaves, fruits, and seeds. They also occur in the country around farms with grain bins.

“Have you ever watched a hawk in pursuit of a timid dove? Instinct has taught the dove that in order for the hawk to seize his prey, he must gain a loftier flight than his victim. So she rises higher and still higher in the blue dome of heaven, ever pursued by the hawk, which is seeking to obtain the advantage. But in vain. The dove is safe as long as she allows nothing to stop her in her flight, or draw her earthward; but let her once falter, and take a lower flight, and her watchful enemy will swoop down upon his victim. . . .

“We have before us a warfare,—a lifelong conflict with Satan and his seductive temptations. The enemy will use every argument, every deception, to entangle the soul; and in order to win the crown of life, we must put forth earnest, persevering effort. We must not lay off the armor or leave the battlefield until we have gained the victory, and can triumph in our Redeemer. As long as we continue to keep our eyes fixed upon the Author and Finisher of our faith, we shall be safe. But our affections must be placed upon things above, not on things of the earth. By faith we must rise higher and still higher in the attainment of the graces of Christ. By daily contemplating His matchless charms, we must grow more and more into His glorious image. While we thus live in communion with Heaven, Satan will lay his nets for us in vain.” The Youth’s Instructor, May 12, 1898.

David Arbour writes from his home in DeQueen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: