Monday, 5 April 2010

Duntocher, West Dunbartonshire

This morning there were a pair of Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocta) and a lone Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) perched in the trees in my parent's garden.

One interesting feature of the pigeon family (Columbidae), which is unusual amongst birds, and is shared only by Flamingos and some Penguins, is the method by which they feed their young. Pigeons produce crop-milk: a secretion from the lining of the crop which is composed mostly of sloughed cells and is very rich in fat and protein. Both males and females secrete and regurgitate crop milk on which the young squabs are fed entirely until they are at least a week old (after which the parents feed them increasing porportions of mashed adult food).

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
The Woodpigeon is by far the largest European pigeon species, weighing up to 520g. It can easily be distinguished by size, the white bands on its wings and by the white neck patches. The bill is pinkish-yellow and the eyes have pale yellow irises.

The Woodpigeon's scientific is latin for 'Collared-dove pigeon' (Columba = from Columbar = collar + palumbus = pigeon).

Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocta)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocta)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocta)
The Collared Dove is small, slender pigeon with pale brownish-grey plumage and a black neck band. The bill is grey and the eyes are dark red. Weighing around 200g, it is considerably smaller and slimmer than the portly Woodpigeon.

The Collared Dove's scientific name mixes both Latin and Greek, meaning 'Collared-dove eighteen' (Strepto = wearing a collar/torque (Greek), peleia = wild dove (Greek) + decaocto = eighteen (Latin), literally ten-eight). 'Strepto/streptos' literally means 'twisted' in Latin, referring to the twisted strands of metal which make up a torque or neck collar.

The Collared Dove has expanded its range Westwards from Turkey and the Middle East over the last 40-50 years. In 1955 it nested in the UK for the first time and since then the population has rapidly increased: around 568,000 birds now breed here.

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