When I moved from Chippenham (Wiltshire) down the road to the wonderful Great Chalfield last summer I was quickly struck by the lack of three bird species that were common at the former and seemingly absent at the latter: House Sparrow, Starling, and Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. For months I saw neither feather nor beak of any of them. It was ironic given that eg New York birders could have looked out of the window to see two of them, and judging by the way Collared Doves spread once they get a toehold the third could be there soon!
However, two days ago I noted a Starling disappearing into a small hole in the roof of the estate’s little church, this very morning I was jerked away from the computer by what I suddenly realised was a male House Sparrow chirping away in the background of songs of Blackcaps and Song Thrushes, and on Thursday I felt compelled to stop my now-resident pair of Collared Doves from again hoovering up the pile of sunflower seeds I put out for the more delicate visitors: Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Marsh, Blue, and Great Tits, and (remarkably) the pair of Reed Buntings that now live in the hedge.
So, for those of you living in eg NY, Chicago, California etc THIS may well be what you’re greeted with when you pull back the curtains anytime soon…
The Collared Dove has undertaken a really remarkable natural range expansion in the last sixty years. The following is taken from the species’ account on Wikipedia.
The Collared Dove is not migratory, but is strongly dispersive. Over the last century, it has been one of the great colonisers of the bird world. Its original range at the end of the 19th century was warm temperate and subtropical Asia from Turkey east to southern China and south through India to Sri Lanka. However, in the 20th century it expanded across Europe, appearing in the Balkans between 1900-1920, and then spreading rapidly northwest, reaching Germany in 1945, Great Britain by 1953 (breeding for the first time in 1956), Ireland in 1959, and the Faroe Islands in the early 1970s. Subsequent spread was ‘sideways’ from this fast northwest spread, reaching northeast to north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and east to the Ural Mountains in Russia, and southwest to the Canary Islands and northern Africa from Morocco to Egypt, by the end of the 20th century. In the east of its range, it has also spread northeast to most of central and northern China, and locally (probably introduced) in Japan. It has also reached Iceland as a vagrant (41 records up to 2006), but has not colonised successfully there.
Additionally some well-meaning (probably) but rather idiotic (I’d say definitely) people have released Collared Doves in the Caribbean from where they’ve spread rapidly (as anyone from this side of the pond would have predicted had they’d only been asked):
The Collared Dove was introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s and spread from there to Florida by 1982. It has become invasive; the stronghold in North America is still the Gulf Coast, but it now found as far south as Veracruz, as far west as California, and as far north as British Columbia, the Great Lakes, and Nova Scotia. Some of the more distantly dispersed records may refer to local escapes from captivity. Its impact on other species there is as yet unknown; it appears to occupy an ecological niche between that of the Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon (also an invasive species in North America).
As an additional note I would add that I remember reading about the excitement caused when the first pair of Collared Doves were found breeding in the UK (in Norfolk in 1955), and the almost militaristic organisation put in place by local birders to make sure that the news didn’t leak out (mostly to the UK’s charmless egg-collectors). It’s hard to imagine now, given how widely the species has spread and how unwelcoming many people feel when they see this pink/buff hoover cleaning up their birdtables. It’s also difficult to imagine how the news of a similar event concerning another colonist/ invasive species (Common Myna anyone?) could be ‘locked-down’ in the age of the internet and instant communication? Time will tell I guess…