Attracting the Eurasian Collared Dove
I’ve made it a goal this year to attract the Eurasian Collared Dove to my Wyoming garden. A few years ago, in the late summer and fall, they were coming in small flocks to get the seed I put out. I had a lapse in my dove-feeding habits, so they haven’t been coming.
To give a little background, I am very fond of domestic doves. My daughter has had pet doves for about 10 years. We purchased her first pair in a pet store in Minot, ND. Twice I have obtained pairs to be classroom pets, successfully raising babies in the classroom. I would love to have a pet dove in our home, but my husband prefers that we not add to our pets. I can respect his choice in this matter. He is ever the voice of reason.
My desire for doves in the garden, then, is part displacement of my desire for pet doves, part pure appreciation of the chubby loveliness of the Eurasian Collared Dove.
Attracting the Eurasian Collared Dove
I started trying to bring in the wild doves by scattering some safflower seed in the parkway in front of my house. My expectation was that it would take a few days or weeks for the doves to find the seed and start coming. I also expected small flocks of a dozen or so doves. To help the process along, and because I like other birds too, I filled a couple of Niger feeders for the finches and put out a suet cake.
The first safflower seed went on the ground on March 29. I was lucky enough to hear a dove calling the next day. My first sighting was not until the 7th of April. When I did spot a dove in the garden, it was nowhere near the bird feeders or the safflower area. Instead, it was in the highest part of my garden and appeared to be picking up flower seeds.
After spotting that first dove, I scattered a little safflower near where I had seen it. I also added fresh seed to my preferred feeding area. On April 13 a dove flew through the garden but didn’t land. On the 14th I noticed that most of the safflower seed was gone, but I could tell it hadn’t been eaten by doves. Doves eat seeds whole, while other birds hull the safflower seeds first.
My first hint of success came on April 23. A single dove perched on my handrail before flying to the feeding area. The dove fed on safflower seed for a few minutes before leaving. I expected more doves to start coming, but it didn’t happen. Instead, on the 24th, I saw a dove under the bird feeders, picking up Niger.
A Realization: Dove Food Preferences
On the 26th I again saw a dove feeding on Niger. On Friday April 28, as I was driving to work, I realized that the Eurasian Collared Dove may need to be fed more like our domestic doves. We always offer the pet doves a variety of seeds so they can pick what they want. In general, they don’t really eat safflower seed unless they’re feeding babies, and then that’s all they want. When the wild doves were coming in to take safflower seed, those groups probably consisted of parents with babies in the nest.
My next move was to buy a nice quality finch mix that includes small millet, Niger, and sunflower bits. I’ve been scattering a little on the ground in the feeding area every day. I realized that I would have no way of knowing when they started wanting the safflower, so I still scatter a little of that, too.
My dove-attracting efforts have paid off in terms of other birds. I’ve seen a few Goldfinches and lots of House Finches. 90% of the birds I see are English Sparrows, but I don’t really mind. There are others I see and hear that aren’t coming for the seed, such as wrens, Robins, and Ruby Crowned Kinglets.
Yesterday and today I was blessed with lots of time in my front garden. I could hear doves calling frequently and from all directions. I was happy to see them flying all around the area. They aren’t coming in to feed as much as I want, but at least I know they’re around.
Update 4-8-2017: Almost as soon as this was published, doves started coming to my feeding area. Several times throughout the day there were pairs feeding. I decided to scatter the finch seed on one side of the walk, safflower on the other so I could see what they were taking. So far, it’s the smaller finch seed.