1. The stock dove is probably the most overlooked of all British birds, largely because of its resemblance to both the woodpigeon and the feral pigeon.
2. Unlike the woodpigeon, the stock dove has no white feathers in its plumage, while it is both smaller and shorter-tailed. In contrast to the feral pigeon, it is a bird of the open countryside.
3. A good field mark at close range is the stock dove’s dark eye, which gives it a gentle appearance. In contrast, the woodpigeon’s eye is pale yellow.
4. Though unlikely to be seen in either urban or suburban gardens, it will often visit gardens in rural situations, even coming to bird tables or foraging under feeders. 5. The voice is distinctive, with a deep, rhythmic low coo that is surprisingly far carrying.
6. Unlike most pigeons and doves, the stock dove nests in holes, usually in trees, but often in old stone barns or similar buildings. This requirement for nesting holes restricts it, but ensures that is common in old parkland with mature trees.
7. In the absence of suitable elevated holes, birds will sometimes nest in rabbit burrows.
8. The male’s distinctive display flight features slow, deep wing beats with the wings clapping over the bird’s back.
9. Only a minimal amount of nesting material is used on which two slightly glossy white eggs are laid.
10. The incubation period is 16-18 days, with the chicks fledging 20-30 days later.
11. The nesting season is a long one, starting in late February or early March and continuing late into the summer. There may be up to four broods.
12. British stock doves are sedentary, rarely moving far from where they were hatched. In contrast, the Scandinavian and eastern European populations are migratory, with the birds moving south to the Mediterranean region.
13. Like most pigeons and doves, stock doves feed mainly on the ground, where they forage for seeds and leaves.
14. In the spring and summer it is unusual to see a single stock dove, as they are usually to be found in pairs.
15. Though they often feed in flocks, gatherings of more than 50 birds are unusual.
16. Feeding birds will often join flocks of woodpigeons.
17. Unlike the woodpigeon, which is regarded as a pest species and which can be shot throughout the year, the stock dove is protected.
18. This is a species that was badly affected by organochlorine poisoning in the 1960s. Since then the population in mainland Britain has increased considerably.
19. There has been a recent decline in western Ireland, due to the loss of mixed farming.
20. There are many regional names for this dove, ranging from blue rock to wood dove, cushat, sand pigeon and stoggie.
21. This is one of the few birds that the UK has by far the biggest European population, with at least 2 million breeding pairs.