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All 15 Doves and Pigeons in Spain

doves and pigeons in spain
Bolle’s Pigeon in Canarias, Spain: Photo by Daniel Pettersson

Introduction

Welcome to our guide to the doves and pigeons in Spain. From bustling urban plazas to serene countryside landscapes, these birds grace the Spanish skies with their presence. In this article, we delve into the fascinating characteristics, behaviors, and conservation status of these bird species across the Spanish territory. Join us as we uncover the beauty and importance of Spain’s doves and pigeons, and learn about the efforts underway to ensure their survival in the face of various challenges.

Doves and Pigeons in Spain

Jump to a species!

Rock Dove (Columba livia)

  • Features: Medium-sized pigeon with dark gray bill and bluish-gray plumage. Males are slightly larger than females. They have white underwing coverts and a blue-black tail band. Wing bars are visible, and underwings are white. Neck feathers show iridescence. Eye color varies. Females are duller in appearance, while juveniles are even less vibrant.
  • Behavior: Rock Pigeons are highly adaptable birds known for their association with urban environments worldwide. They are social animals, often forming large flocks, and are frequently seen foraging for food in parks, plazas, and other public spaces. Rock Pigeons are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of food items, including seeds, grains, and human scraps. They are known for their distinctive cooing calls and are capable of navigating and homing over long distances. They also display complex courtship behaviors, including puffing up their chests and strutting in front of potential mates.
  • Habitat: Wild Rock Pigeons roost and nest in various locations, including crevices, caves in rocky seaside cliffs, or interior uplands, particularly near open scrub vegetation or human agriculture. Studies in Scotland have observed them inhabiting ledges in caves and sea cliffs, with some populations invading ruined buildings. In the Algerian Sahara, they are found in areas where rocks, some vegetation, and water sources converge, while in Tunisia, they inhabit deep wells. In Israel, they are located on steep rocky slopes and in canyons. They tend to avoid areas with tall and dense vegetation. In North America, feral populations also occupy similar habitats, but most are associated with human environments, such as farm buildings, small-town architecture, and urban centers with high-density human populations. They increasingly utilize highway infrastructures like overpasses and bridges, facilitating their spread to more remote areas, provided there is sufficient food availability.
  • Range: Rock Pigeons can be found all throughout Spain. Spain is within the range of of wild Rock Pigeons, but there are also feral Rock Pigeon populations.

Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea)

  • Features: This pigeon is predominantly gray with a sizable red skin patch encircling the eyes. Its back and wing coverts exhibit a rufous hue, with the latter heavily spotted in white. Notably, it boasts a rufous collar adorned with bifurcated feathers, creating a fluffy appearance. Pinkish-red legs, a blackish bill, and a pale yellow iris, occasionally rimmed with pinkish-red, complete its distinctive features. In flight, it displays a gray rump contrasting sharply with its rufous back.
  • Behavior: Speckled pigeons feed on a diverse diet consisting of seeds, grains, fruits, and insects. They are social birds, often congregating in small groups, and are known for their vocalizations, including cooing calls and wing claps during courtship displays. Their nests are typically constructed from twigs and placed in elevated locations such as trees or buildings.
  • Habitat: The speckled pigeon is commonly found in diverse habitats across open landscapes, including savannas, open woodlands, and gardens, spanning from sea-level up to 3,000 meters in elevation. However, they typically avoid forested areas. In Western regions, these pigeons are frequently seen near baobab and Borassus palms, while in the Eastern and Southern parts of their range, they are often associated with rocky terrain, cliffs, and gorges. They venture into croplands and grasslands for feeding purposes.
  • Range: In Spain, Speckled Pigeons are very rare visitors, with an exotic, possibly escaped, individual recorded in Cáceres.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas)

  • Features: The Stock Dove has a blue-grey coloration, with black-tipped wings noticeable during flight. It features two short black bars on its folded wings, and a third fainter bar, more prominent in males. Its breast appears mauve-pink, and it has iridescent patches of green and mauve-pink on both sides of the neck. The tail is grey with a black band, and the outer tail feathers have white edges. It has dark brown eyes, blue-grey orbital skin, and a pink-to-yellow bill with a white cere. Its legs are red. Females are duller with darker legs and bill, while juveniles have a rusty fawn breast and dark legs.
  • Behavior: The Stock Dove primarily forages on the ground, consuming seeds, grains, green leaves, buds, flowers, and occasionally invertebrates. For nesting, it favors holes found in various locations such as old trees, rock crevices, rabbit burrows, or buildings. Their nests typically consist of twig platforms, although eggs are sometimes laid directly on bare wood.
  • Habitat: Stock Doves are commonly found in open landscapes, including cultivated areas and open woodlands. They particularly favor the borders between forests and open country, where old trees offer suitable breeding hollows. In Europe, they inhabit temperate zones at upper and middle latitudes, as well as boreal and Mediterranean regions, with occasional presence in steppe environments.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies is present throughout all of Spain in suitable habitat.

Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

  • Features: The Common Wood Pigeon is mostly bluish-gray with black-edged wings. Its breast is mauve-pink, turning creamy on the belly, and its flanks are gray. There are shiny purple-pink and green feathers next to a white patch on each side of its neck. The tail has a broad black band with a pale grayish-white stripe underneath. Its eyes range from greenish-white to pale golden, and its bill is purplish-pink at the base and golden at the tip, with a white cere. The legs are reddish-purple. Females have smaller white neck patches, and juveniles are duller and paler, with rusty fawn breasts. Different subspecies may vary.
  • Behavior: It primarily gathers food from the ground but also forages in trees.
  • Habitat: Usually found in the ecotone of deciduous or coniferous woodland, this species can be observed at altitudes ranging from 1500 to 1600 meters, and occasionally even up to the tree-line in the Alps. In central Europe, its original breeding habitat consisted of the edges of old mixed pine and oak forests.
  • Range: Common Wood Pigeons are very common throughout all of Spain.

Bolle’s Pigeon (Columba bollii)

  • Features: Bolle’s pigeons are characterized by their slender bodies and large tails. They resemble Trocaz Pigeons but can be distinguished by a small coppery brown patch on each side of the neck instead of a silvery grey neck area. Additionally, they have a pale median tailband instead of broad pale terminal tips, darker yellow irises, and red legs and feet. Both sexes exhibit these features. Juveniles are generally duller, with a more sepia-brown upper body lacking iridescence. Their scapulars and wing-coverts are buff-edged, their underparts are more rufous-brown, and they have black bills and brownish-red legs and feet.
  • Behavior: Their diet primarily consists of fruit, although they also consume leaves, buds, and shoots when they are seasonally abundant. To establish territory, they engage in territorial displays characterized by shallow, repeated glides with wing-clapping, followed by long circular glides to a perch.
  • Habitat: Bolle’s Pigeons inhabit dense laurel forests, characterized by species such as Lauraceae, Ericaceae, and Rosaceae, with Laurus azorica and Ocotea foetens being dominant. They are commonly found in mountainous areas, particularly in ravines, as well as in heath areas featuring Myrica faya and Erica arborea. Occasionally, they are observed in more open environments like cultivated areas and mixed pine woods. They primarily inhabit uplands, especially those exposed to northeast trade winds, typically ranging from 1300 to 1500 meters on Tenerife. However, they have also been spotted as low as 600 meters on the island. During the heat of the day, they seek refuge in the deep shade provided by laurel trees.
  • Range: These birds are very localized and endemic to the West Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain.

Laurel Pigeon (Columba junoniae)

  • Features: The bird has a dark grey forehead, face, and throat with green or mauve iridescence. Its crown, nape, and neck are mostly iridescent green, turning reddish-purple on the neck and upper mantle. The lower breast and underparts are wine red, while the lower back and rump are dark bluish grey, transitioning to a lighter hue on the uppertail-coverts and two central rectrices. The outer rectrices have a faint whitish terminal band, more visible on the drab grey underside of the tail. Its iris is orange, with red eyelids, and its bill is wine red at the base, fading to pink or pinkish-white. Females have slightly lighter red-purple on the neck and breast, while juveniles are duller with rusty brown fringes on the wing-coverts.
  • Behavior: The bird mainly eats fruit, buds, some grain, and flowers. Its population on Tenerife is limited to four small areas. Although officially discovered in 1975, reports from 1871 suggest it may have been present earlier. Overhunting, habitat loss, and introduced predators like rats and cats have harmed its numbers. Despite a hunting ban in 1973, illegal hunting persists, especially near drinking and feeding spots.
  • Habitat: The laurel forest is predominantly situated below the high-level belt, nestled within the mountainous regions of the islands. It thrives in deep canyons, on steep slopes, and along large escarpments, reaching altitudes of up to 1600 meters. The vegetation is characterized by dense woods of Erica arborea, Laurus, Myrica faya, and other species. While it prefers mature laurel forest habitats, it can also be found in scrubby zones at the lower limit of the forest and in mixed pine stands at its upper limit.
  • Range: Similar to the Bolle’s Pigeon, these birds are local and endemic to the West Canary Islands.

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)

  • Features: European Turtle Doves are largely light gray birds with a distinctive black-and-white patch on the side of the neck. Wings coverts have large rufous edges and the wings, when close, show a bluish edge. Eyes are black with a red iris.
  • Behavior: The main components of their diet consist of seeds and fruits from weeds and cereals. Breeding typically begins in May in Europe. The nest of a European Turtle Dove is a delicate platform made of small twigs, often lined with grass stems, roots, and leaves. It is usually placed in a tree, shrub, or hedge, although it may sometimes utilize old nests of passerines.
  • Habitat: This species is found in a diverse range of woodland types, as well as steppe and semi-desert environments. It tends to avoid unbroken forests, instead favoring forest borders, open woodland, and heath areas with scattered trees. It steers clear of windy, cloudy, and wet regions, preferring sunny, dry, and sheltered areas. Additionally, it avoids mountainous regions and, in continental Europe, thrives at altitudes below 350 meters.
  • Range: European Turtle Doves are common throughout Spain.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

  • Features: This dove is medium-sized and stout, measuring 300-312 mm long and weighing 112-264 g. It’s distinguished by a black collar on the back of its neck and a squared tail. Adults are sandy gray with a pinkish hue on the head and breast. In flight, it shows gray feathers in the wing “wrist” and dark brown primaries. The undertail coverts are gray, and the underside of the tail has a black-and-white pattern, with a white edge during display flight and landing. Its bill is black, iris deep red, and legs and feet mauve-red. Both sexes have similar appearances year-round.
  • Behavior: The Eurasian Collared Dove also seeks out roost and nest sites, including scattered trees, structures like barns, and overhead wires with poles. It exhibits aggression, particularly around its nest, where adults will fly directly at intruding birds of the same species. It establishes territories that include at least one elevated vantage point.
  • Habitat: This species has become closely associated with humans, especially after expanding its range during the 20th century in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, and its introduction to North America. It’s commonly found in suburban areas, farmland, and other heavily altered environments, particularly where grain is abundant. It tends to avoid forests and areas dominated by impervious surfaces, such as urban areas, where concrete and asphalt cover more than 50% of the ground.
  • Range: Eurasian Collared Doves are now regular, some might say naturalized, residents all across Spain in suitable habitat.

African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea)

  • Features: The African Collared Dove bears a close resemblance to the Eurasian Collared Dove. However, it is notably smaller. It also has a shorter tail and is predominantly sandy brown above, with delicate pinkish-grey on the head and underparts, while its belly and undertail-coverts are white.
  • Behavior: The primary diet of the African Collared Dove consists of seeds sourced from grasses and various other plants. Additionally, it consumes other plant materials, insects, and occasionally snails.
  • Habitat: The African Collared Dove typically inhabits dry regions with xerophilous thornbush scrub or open desert featuring annual grasses. It can also be found in sandy riverbeds and farmland, usually not too far from a water source, although it can endure extended periods without water. Berries may occasionally fulfill its moisture needs. It avoids riparian areas and other types of forests and is generally found at elevations below 1000 m.
  • Range: African Collared Doves are found primarily in, you guessed it, Africa. Records in Spain are all of exotics, likely escapees.

Red Collared Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica)

  • Features: The head is bluish-gray, blending into whitish-gray above the bill. The upper body has a deep mauvish-pink hue, while the lower body is paler, transitioning to white on the belly. The tail and wings are dark gray, with underwings appearing pale bluish-gray. The bill is black, and the legs are purplish-black. Female birds have a different appearance, appearing drab brown and brownish-gray.
  • Behavior: It consumes grass and herb seeds, along with cultivated grains like rice and maize, as well as buds and young leaves. It primarily forages on the ground, typically in pairs or small groups, but may assemble in flocks of 50 or more at abundant food sites.
  • Habitat: It resides in open landscapes featuring trees, scrub, jungle, and dry woodland. Unlike its Asian relatives, it is rarely encountered near human settlements.
  • Range: The native range of Red Collared Doves lies in southern and eastern Asia. Records in Spain are sparse and belong to exotic birds.

Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)

  • Features: The Laughing Dove has a mauve-pink head, neck, and breast, fading into a creamy white belly. It showcases a broad band of display feathers on the neck, black at the base with golden copper tips. Rusty red-brown covers the mantle, scapulars, and inner wing coverts, while the outer wing-coverts appear blue-gray to slate. The tail feathers are mostly grayish-brown, with the outer ones having broad white tips. The iris is dark brown, the bill is dark gray-brown, and the legs are purple-pink. Females are similar but less colorful, and juveniles lack the adult’s coppery neck plumage, with duller colors overall.
  • Behavior: Laughing Doves are known for their gentle and sociable behavior, often seen in pairs or small groups. They forage on the ground for seeds and grains and are recognized for their soft, repetitive calls reminiscent of laughter.
  • Habitat: In Africa, Laughing Doves inhabit dry habitats but usually stay within 10 km of water sources. They’re commonly found in wooded savannas, villages, and urban gardens, with a preference for acacia woodlands. In some places, they have taken over the urban pigeon role, feeding in docks, roosting on roofs, and likely breeding in gardens and cemeteries.
  • Range: In Spain, wild Laughing Doves are occasionally seen scattered across the Mediterranean coastline, having come across the water from northern Africa.

Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)

  • Features: This small dove is found in open and arid environments, with distinctive rufous primaries and black bands on the lower back visible in flight. Its upperparts are mostly gray-brown, while the underparts and outer tail feathers are white with white-tipped tail feathers. Males have a black forehead to upper breast and a colorful bill, while females have a dark bill and a mostly white face without black feathering.
  • Behavior: Typically maintains weak territories, with individual pairs often spread out. Sexually monogamous.
  • Habitat: Found in various open habitats including Acacia savannas, thornveld, dry pans, grasslands with bushes, and cultivated areas. They are also seen in gardens, around villages, and in open areas near rivers.
  • Range: The few records of Namaqua Doves in Spain are most likely exotic birds.

Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)

  • Features: The bird has a light grey head and neck, with a long pointed grey-black crest at the back. Its body is mostly brownish-grey, with hints of pinkish-brown on the sides. The wings show grey feathers with black and pinkish buff markings, while the underside is pale grey with touches of pinkish-brown. It has a grey-black bill, pink-red orbital ring, and pink-red legs and feet. Both males and females look alike.
  • Behavior: This species primarily feeds on seeds and foliage, occasionally supplementing its diet with small insects and other invertebrates. Nesting activity is observed throughout the year.
  • Habitat: Initially confined to sparsely forested grasslands within arid and semi-arid regions, this species has since extended its habitat into agricultural areas and urban centers due to the clearance of dense coastal forests. Additionally, the creation of watering spots for livestock has facilitated its spread into even drier locales.
  • Range: Crested Pigeons are native to Australia, therefore any individuals seen in Spain were brought over and are considered exotic, possibly naturalized in some parts.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata)

  • Features: This small dove has a long, pointed tail. The male’s head, neck, breast, and flanks are a pale blue-grey, fading to darker brown or grey-brown on the upper body. Its upperwing is dark brown with a large chestnut panel in the primaries, visible in flight. The outer tail feathers are black with broad white tips, creating prominent white corners when spread. The belly, vent, and undertail-coverts are white, while the bill is dark grey, turning black at the tip. Its eyes are scarlet, and its legs and feet are pink.
  • Behavior: Primarily eats seeds, with occasional consumption of leaves and insects. Breeding patterns appear to follow seasons, largely affected by rainfall and food availability.
  • Habitat: Frequents sparsely wooded, dry or semi-dry grasslands with nearby water sources. Often observed near roads and trails.
  • Range: Another Australian Columbidae member that has been brought to Europe. Scattered records from around the outskirts of the country.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

  • Features: A medium-sized dove with a slender build and elongated tail. Typically measures 26.5–34 cm in males and 22.5–31 cm in females. Its upper plumage varies from grayish-blue to grayish-brown, while the underparts are buff-colored. Features black spots on wing coverts and behind the eye, with gray wings and tail feathers tipped in black-bordered white. Sports a fine, black bill and dull red legs and feet. Dark brown eyes set within bluish skin. Adult males boast a pale rosy breast, contrasting with the tannish hue in females, while males exhibit a bluish crown and nape, whereas females appear more brownish.
  • Behavior: Mourning Doves swiftly navigate the air with strong wingbeats, often executing abrupt maneuvers including sudden ascents, descents, and agile dodges, their elongated tails trailing behind them.
  • Habitat: Mourning Doves can be spotted in various habitats except dense forests. Keep an eye out for them in open fields, areas with sparse vegetation, or perched on overhead wires like telephone lines.
  • Range: Somehow, some Mourning Doves have established themselves in the Azores, a municipality of Spain in the Atlantic Ocean.

Threats and Conservation

In Spain, several conservation organizations actively work to protect doves and pigeons, including SEO/BirdLife (Sociedad Española de Ornitología), which focuses on bird conservation and habitat preservation nationwide. Additionally, regional organizations such as GREFA (Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna Autóctona y su Hábitat) play a crucial role in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation efforts specific to Spain. These organizations collaborate with governmental agencies and local communities to implement conservation strategies, raise awareness, and advocate for policies that safeguard the habitats of doves and pigeons and other avian species across Spain.

Citizen Science

In Spain, citizen science initiatives contribute significantly to bird research and conservation efforts. Projects like SEO/BirdLife’s Bird Count engage volunteers in monitoring bird populations and habitats across the country. Platforms such as BirdTrack and eBird provide opportunities for birdwatchers to record and share their sightings, contributing valuable data to scientific research and conservation planning. These citizen science efforts not only enhance our understanding of bird distribution and ecology but also empower local communities to participate actively in biodiversity conservation in Spain.

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Conclusion

The diverse array of doves and pigeons in Spain enriches the country’s ecosystems and cultural heritage. From the iconic Eurasian Collared Dove to the rare Bolle’s Pigeon, these birds play vital roles in seed dispersal, ecosystem health, and our viewing pleasure! However, they face various threats, including habitat loss, hunting, and climate change. Conservation efforts led by organizations like SEO/BirdLife and supported by citizen science initiatives are crucial for safeguarding these bird species and their habitats. By fostering public awareness, research, and conservation action, Spain can continue to cherish and protect its rich birdlife for generations to come.

Credits:

Birds of the World – https://birdsoftheworld.org/

Stevenson, T., Fanshawe, J., Gale, J., & Small, B. E. (2020). Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press.

Svensson, L., Mullarney, K., & Zetterström, D. (2023). Birds of Europe (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press.