• Rae Gellel

Lucky Couple Will Spend the Lockdown Watching This Beautiful Dove Family Grow

Eurasian Collared Doves are among the animal kingdom’s greatest global colonisers. Originally native to parts of Europe and Asia, their adaptability and natural tenacity for travel has seen them settle in almost every continent, from subtropical climates to those just north of the arctic circle.

During the nation-wide lockdown in the UK, a pair of these seasoned travellers have chosen a somewhat less exotic location for their home, however: the balcony of a top-floor flat in Cheshire, North West England, where they have nested in an artificial tree.

This is the second year that the flat’s occupants - Ella Burrett and her partner - have welcomed the pair of doves to their balcony, which overlooks a canal. Since the artificial tree is pressed against sheer glass doors, the couple has a rare, intimate view of the birds as they tend to their budding family.

For days they watched the doves painstakingly build the nest, leaving and returning with twigs and pieces of foilage. Eventually, an egg appeared, followed by another in the ensuing days, and the parents have since shared responsibility for sitting on them. Typically, the male Collared Dove will incubate the eggs during the day, and the female during the evening. They are a monogamous species, choosing just a single mate.

“It’s been so lovely watching the doves, I have a perfect view from my sofa so all day I could see them bringing sticks back and creating the nest. Now the mum has laid eggs, they don’t really move much, only swapping positions every evening. I found it really funny that they nested there as opposite the canal there’s lots of trees and greenery! But the canal pathway is usually very busy with people too, so I think they just felt safer being away from it all,” said Ella, who also has a pet bird - a parakeet. The incubation period for Collared Dove eggs averages between 14 and 18 days, meaning they are due to hatch any day now, an exciting prospect for Ella and her boyfriend. When the doves nested on the balcony previously, the couple missed their hatching due to a long holiday abroad. This year however, the lockdown has created the perfect conditions for them to monitor the eggs, all from the comfort of their home.

For a wildlife lover, their position is enviable. Watching any animal enter the world, and grow from birth to maturity in such close proximity, is a rare and precious thing that can seldom be achieved without interfering or causing harm. In this case, both couples - human and bird - have created a peaceful co-existence, one that is so often lacking where wildlife and people collide in the modern world.

Though they’re known to nest relatively near to human habitation, often visiting bird tables and feeding on human leftovers, Collared Doves are more timorous than their pigeon cousins, generally fleeing at the first approach of a person. This underscores just how lucky Ella and her partner have been to be chosen by this breeding pair for two years in a row - in terms of activities to while away the excess hours during the pandemic, they have truly hit the jackpot.