Armistice Day marks the date and time, November 11th at 11am in 1918, when armies stopped fighting World War I. The war started on 28 July 1914, a 100 years ago. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
This is poignant reminder for Africa. The daily civil war against poachers continues but at least the major conflicts in southern Africa have stopped and with them the wholesale destruction of our wildlife heritage. Just look at the herculean effort the dedicated people of Gorongoza in Mozambique are doing to bring that beautiful park back from the brink.
“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That lands yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten.”
― Aldo Leopold
In recognition and respect, I thought I would do a post on Doves, as a globally recognised symbol of peace.
In fact, the post includes Doves and Pigeons. As I did in last week’s post, I will also add the Doves and Pigeons to my Birds category.
Pigeons and Doves constitute the bird family Columbidae, which now includes about 334 species (IOC World Bird List 4.4). In most cases, both Pigeons and Doves have thick, round bodies, short necks and short and slim beaks. They also have small, rounded heads and small, scaly legs. Their wings are short and wide. They tend to feed on fruits and seeds, with seeds being their main diet.
Apart from their distinctive colouration, Dove and Pigeon species each have their own unique style or sound of cooing or crooning. I have linked some of my images to URLs to the Africam and Xeno Canto Foundation web sites to enable you to hear their calls. The Doves in southern Africa have a range of calls some of which are so peaceful, while others sound like they are laughing and some sound utterly mournful. They are all very evocative and when you hear them you know you are in Africa.
Doves and Pigeons are unlike most other birds. Both the male and the female of Columbidae species produce milk for their young. Their milk is called crop milk. It contains a higher level of protein and fat than the milk produced by mammals.
We have 14 Doves and Pigeon species in southern Africa, excluding the seldom seen vagrant European Turtle Dove.
Cape Turtle Dove or Ring-necked Dove is very common and found throughout southern Africa. It is a soft pinkish grey colour with a black ring which extends around the back half of its neck. It has a black eye. It has a distinctive call which sounds like ” work harder, work harder” or as some say “drink lager, drink lager”. The latter makes more sense!!
I have embedded a link to Africam website in the next image so you can hear this Dove’s call. Just click on the image to listen to its call and when finished press the back (or left pointing) arrow key on your web browser to continue.
Cape Turtle Doves tend to flock together for protection when they come down to drink, especially in the drier areas. Lanner Falcons prey heavily on these Turtle Doves as they flock around the waterholes in the Kalagadigadi.
The Laughing Dove is exquisitely adorned with soft pinks light-browns and soft-greys. It has a soft salmon-pink head and a cinnamon coloured bib with black spots on the bib. Its beak is relative short but thin. This helps it gather seeds but its cannot dehusk them so must swallow them whole. Seeds are essentially dry so these seed-eaters must drink water regularly. Laughing Doves tend to congregate in flocks when they come down to the water’s edge to drink, especially in the dry areas.
The next image of a Laughing Dove has its call embedded in the image. Just click on the image and the call will be played. Once completed just press the back arrow in the web browser.
This is a small, very wary Dove. It will not allow you to get close. Its eyes are set back on the side of its head so it has monocular vision is thought to be twice as good as its binocular vision, which is why a Dove or Pigeon will usually stand side on to you. They are extremely quick fliers.
The Namaqua Dove is also known as the masked or Cape Dove. This is a small but striking bird, with a black face and throat and a red and yellow beak. The female Namaqua Dove lacks the bright beak and the black ‘mask’ of the male, but both sexes have a long, mostly black tail. The rest of the Namaqua Dove’s plumage consists of blue-grey on the head merging into pale brown on the back. It has a white belly, chestnut primary feathers (which are visible in flight). Juvenile Namaqua doves are a fawn colour with many black speckles.
Namaqua Doves are normally found in the drier reaches of southern Africa. I have seen them in Mashatu in Botswana, Kalagadigadi Transfrontier National Park and Etosha in Namibia. It is only when these little Doves fly do you get to see their full colours.
The next image is of four male Namaqua Doves drinking water from one of the boreholes in the Kalagadigadi Transfrontier park in very bright conditions. Click on the next image to hear the Namaqua Dove’s call. Once finished press the back arrow key on you web browser to return to the blog.
The Red-eyed Dove looks like a Cape Turtle Dove. It is largest of the three ring-necked Doves. It has the same colouring and a black ring around the back of its neck as a Cape Turtle Dove. Its main difference to the Cape Turtle Dove is its grey head and red eye, and bare skin around the eye. This Dove is found mainly in woodland and riverine forest areas. Click on the image to hear its call.
The Turtur genus in the Columbia family comprises, the Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Blue Spotted Wood-Dove and Tambourine Dove. The Emerald-Spotted Wood-Dove is a small greyish-brown with a grey head and brownish body and wings. Its wings also have to rows of two vivid emerald green feathers which create the spots. This is a seed-eater inhabiting savanna and woodlands. It has a very mournful call.
These little Wood-Doves are common in the north and eastern parts of South Africa, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and northern Botswana and Namibia. Click on the next image to hear its call.
When a Dove dips its beak deep into the water, its nostrils close and it drinks by sucking up the water and swallowing. It does not have to tilt its head back to swallow.
I have seen Mourning Doves and Blue-spotted Wood-Doves but never taken a reasonable images of either. I have also still to see a Cinnamon Dove. More time needed in Kwa-Zulu Natal!!
“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.”
― Robert Lynd,
There are five species of Pigeon recorded locally, the Speckled ( formerly Rock), African Green, African Olive ( formerly Rameron), Rock ( formerly Feral) and Bronze-naped ( formerly Delegorgue’s).
Pigeons differ from Doves in that they are larger, their tails are rounder and they eat mostly fruits and not seeds and are therefore seen mostly in trees. The Speckled Pigeon is an exception because it lives in rocky cliffs, buildings and bridges and therefore has to commute daily to find food usually grains or seeds.
All Pigeons are monogamous and territorial when nesting. Their nest is usually a simple rough saucer shaped construction of twigs and grass. Pigeons have short, pointed wings which allow high wing-loadings during take-off and have fast direct flight, often with noisy wing beats followed by gliding.
African Green Pigeons can be found on the north and east areas of South Africa, the eastern part of Botswana, throughout Zimbabwe and along the northern part of Botswana and Namibia. These Pigeons primarily eat fruit. Anyone who has been to Skukuza in the Kruger park in South Africa when the fig trees are bearing fruit will see and hear the distinctive Green Pigeons in the fig trees down near the river. These birds are able to hang upside down to get at the fruit, unlike most other Doves and Pigeons. They are also exotically coloured with different shades of green on their bodies and wings, which provide good camouflage. Their feet and base of the beak is a bright red, and they have yellow leggings.
Click on the image below to listen to its call. Once finished press the left arrow key in the we browser to continue.
The next image is of a pair of Green Pigeons in Mashatu with the male displaying to the female. During courtship the male flies up high with a burst of rapid, noisy wing beats followed by gliding with a fanned tail. The image shows the typical bowing display by the male, much like that of a Dove.
The African Olive Pigeon, previously called the Rameron pigeon, is found mainly in South Africa, with a small population on the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It lives mainly in indigenous forests, as well as suburban gardens and parks, where it can be found in fruit trees or bushes, its main source of food.
The female constructs the nest, while the male gathers the building materials, which are usually small twigs. The female lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes. The chicks are fed by both parents, and leave the nest after 19-20 days. This Pigeon also feeds almost exclusively on fruit, rarely feeding on fallen seeds on the ground.
I have yet to see a Bronze-naped Pigeon perhaps I need to spend more time along the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast. We have Rock Pigeons in the garden but I have never taken an image of one.
I hope you found this post interesting. I am aiming at popular rather than rigorous science as a way of unpicking the fascinating tapestry of our wildlife.
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”
― Wallace Stegner
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.