Saturday, 27 January 2007

Two turtle doves ...

Following the invasion of the cereal-eating moths, I threw out all the dried food in my pantry. Most of it went on the compost heap but I got a bit lazy and tipped my home-made muesli* onto the garden a couple of metres from the back door.

It didn't take long for a pair of spotted turtle doves (Streptopelia chinensis) to find the bounty. They're not frequent visitors to the garden—they don't seem to like being enclosed by vegetation—but the smorgasbord of cereal was obviously too much to resist.

Spotted turtle doves occur naturally from western Asia to Indonesia. They were introduced into Melbourne in the 1870s. As cage and aviary escapees, they have become established in many places around the world. Like many other species of introduced birds, they have done well in urban areas.

The spangled collar makes the spotted turtle dove instantly recognisable. The only similar bird in Australia is its closest relative, the laughing or Senegal dove (S. senegalensis) of sub-Saharan Africa. This has also been introduced but is restricted to SW Western Australia.

The phylogenetic relationships of these birds is interesting. Streptopelia is a paraphyletic genus. The spotted turtle dove/laughing dove pair forms a sister group to another pair. But whereas that first pair is widespread (between them they've got most of the Old World under their wings), the second has a very limited distribution—Madagascar and the Seychelles (Madagascar turtle dove, S. picturata) and Mauritius (pink pigeon, Nesoenas mayeri). You can read the original paper (PDF) here.

(I photographed these two through rain-streaked windows, so the quality isn't great.)

Johnson, KP, de Kort, S, Dinwoodey, K, Mateman, AC, ten Cate, C, Lessells, CM and Clayton, DH. (2001). A molecular phylogeny of the dove genera Streptopelia and Columba. The Auk 118(4): 874–887.

* Rolled oats, slivered almonds, sultanas, dried pawpaw and ... caterpillars.


Anonymous said...

Loved discovering the "not so secret" ingredient in the muesli ;)


They are prettier than the mourning doves we have here.

Snail said...

Tapperboy, you've got to get the mix just right.

Aydin, we've got some pretty native species. The spinifex pigeon and superb fruit dove are a couple of my favourites.

Duncan said...

The darn things nearly drive me mad with their incessant calling in the mating season, usually when I'm trying to get another hour's sleep!

Snail said...

A pair meets each afternoon on the roof above my office. I'm not quite sure how I encourage them to shuffle along so they're over someone else's office. How can they be so loud? Isn't dove ccoing supposed to be soothing?

budak said...

thanks for the link to the phylogeny paper.

Do the spotted doves over there do their characteristic steep ascent followed by a shallow glide down to a perch/ground?

Snail said...

Come to think of it, Budak, I can't remember how they fly. I must watch them more closely. Most of the time, they're doing the typical pigeon explode-and-clatter. (That sounds more disturbing that I meant it to be.)