For the last six months, Johnny Wee had been noticing a pair of Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) at around noon, especially when the weather was hot. They would arrive to perch along the metal bar that formed part of the boundary fence of his house (left). There, the birds rested, shaded from the hot sun. They stayed for about half an hour each time, silently doing their own comfort activities – not a sound was heard while they were there. There were no flapping of wings, no bobbing of heads and no sign of copulation.
All the birds did was preen. Sitting slightly apart and with feathers fluffed, each bird would indulge in self-preening. Every now and then they would sit close and allopreen. One bird (male? female?) would stretch out and preen the head of its partner, then stretch further across the neck to reach the other side of the head and neck. It is noted that the preening bird often had its eyes closed or partially closed. The bird that was preened had its eyes fully open (below). [Should it not be the other way round?]
Is this part of the courtship ritual of the Spotted Dove? Or is it a normal bonding activity between a pair of doves? Normally, the onset of breeding would see the birds prospecting for suitable nesting sites before actual nest building takes place. And courtship displays may involved one or more of the following: strutting with accompanying wings-tail movements, feeding and aerial displays. The sad fact is that we are mostly ignorant of what actually happened during this period – I may be wrong here and by all means please prove me wrong. And this bird is relatively common and easy to observe in urban areas. On top of it the bird is easy to recognise from the trademark patch of black and white chequer on the sides of the neck.