Stock dove courtship

David Beeson, April 2022

Wood pigeon
Stock dove

Wood pigeons are common here, with our resident pairs that court and mate on our garage roof and nest in our trees and thick hedges. Those birds are joined, overwinter, by flocks of perhaps sixty migratory wood pigeons that roost in our walnuts and graze the meadows. The two types ignore each other and ourselves. We get on fine with them all.

We also have stock doves with their refind body design, beautiful feather hues and a gentle cooing that enlivens our time in the garden. They occur in low numbers, presumably territorial and we have a single pair. Periodically that pair nest in the tawny owl box on one of our old wild cherry trees, otherwise, they possibly take over old squirrel dreys or holes in local trees. Yesterday they surprised us as we witnessed a courtship aerial dance.

Imagine an unequal circle, an ellipse, about 20m by 15m in the air at about 20m high. A pair of stock doves flew this circuit around twenty times between our large walnut trees and the forest oaks and ash trees beyond. They were almost within touching distance of each other, possibly 20cm, with the upper bird just behind and periodically flapping more intensely. They were fixed in position and enjoying a sequenced aerial dance. It appeared exhausting.

I have never seen this courtship before, nor can find a reference to it on the Internet. It is quite different to any wood pigeon behaviour, which can involve males vigorously wing flapping and clapping.

Comments and observations would be especially welcome.

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