Spotted Dove: Courtship?

on 24th June 2007


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.

Johnny Wee
June 2007

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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