Peaceful Dove: A filthy nest

posted in: Parasites, Waste | 6

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KC Tsang was at Neo Tiew Lane on 2nd September 2007 when he came across the nest of the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia striata) (above). There was an adult in the nest together with two chicks. But what he noticed was the filth of the nest periphery, so much so that he wrote, “…this nest made of shit, bird shit. And the best thing is that it is all orderly, and properly arranged.” Tongue-in-cheek he continued, “Now the question is, how long did it take to collect all these faecal matter to build a nest, is all the faecal matter from the same two adults, is it not very unhealthy for the chicks, but looks like it is not so. Has anyone else notice this use of faecal matter as nesting material in other species of birds…?”

The Peaceful Dove constructs a very simple nest, actually a more or less flat platform of twigs. The adults take turn incubating and brooding, remaining in the nest all the time until time to change shift. Even when they are ready to discharge wastes, they do not leave the nest. They just point their posterior away from the nest and shoot.

In most cases the birds leave some mess around the nest edge. But not the massive wastes seen in the nest above. As KC puts it, “Propulsion unit not strong enough?” or is it because of “First generation equipment?”

Faecal wastes attract harmful organisms, from mites to bacteria. And eventually, it is the chicks that get infected.

So what do most birds do? Many take great care to remove wastes from nesting chicks via faecal sacs, as seen with Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus), Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum cruentatum) and Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis).

But not the Peaceful Dove!

I suppose unhygienic birds will produce weak chicks. And weak chicks may not breed. The net result will be the end of this line of unhygienic birds.

KC Tsang
Singapore
September 2007

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6 Responses

  1. […] case of the Peaceful Dove (Geopelia striata) whose nest is filthy is a case in point (left). Normally doves and pigeone are […]

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  2. Food for thought here. I have never seen this bird at nest though it is common both in Malaysia and Sarawak. In Singapore, these birds are part of a now-feral population with a long history of having been bred in captivity.

    An interesting question arise here. How many generations of them were bred in the captive state before they went feral? As I have written in my write-up on this bird (http://singaporebirds.net/npassers_01/zebra_dove.html), could this lack of hygiene at nest be the result of new learnt behaviour over-writing an ancient genetic imprint? Or do they behave similarly when nesting in a natural setting?

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  3. i got a baby chick of this maybe fell from the nest h ow to feed this baby chick?

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    • The dove feeds on small seeds – weed seeds mainly. Not sure whether it can feed on bird seeds at that age, even if grounded up. Chicks are fed by the adults on regurgitated crop milk. If the adults are around, let them take care of the bird. It may be its first flight and landed on the ground. If so, we should let it be…

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  4. Lee Chiu San

    Several points I would like to mention. First, I have bred many generations of peaceful doves in aviaries, and can state categorically that they DO NOT generally make a mess of their nests like the bird in the pictures.

    Secondly, I believe that this species is native to Singapore, even though there might be some escaped individuals around. One way of telling, though not foolproof, is to listen to the call. The original wild stock has a shrill, fast-paced call. This is the natural call that I used to hear 50 or more years ago.

    It sounds something like a rapid-fire “Woo-tut tut tut tut tut.”

    Birds selectively bred for singing competitions were chosen for deep, slow, gong-like calls. Such birds were very rare and highly prized when I was a boy. But then, farms in Thailand and Java started producing them in some quantity.

    These birds sound like “Wow,woo kong, kong, kong.” or “Woo, tut, tut kong kong kong.” They call in slow, deliberate tones.

    There is a good chance that a bird with a deep, slow, bell-like call is descended from escaped stock.

    Now, what to do with a chick? Unlike many softbills, baby doves do not usually gape for food and have to be fed with a syringe.

    Hand-feeding formulae for parrots can be purchased at many bird shops. I get mine from Chua Kah Soon at Goodwill Birds Trading in Block 154, Serangoon North Avenue 1, #01-428. It is not cheap – about $7 for a loose package good for about two weeks, or $20 in the original, one-quart carton from the American or German manufacturers.

    The big pack will raise two doves from hatching till they can feed themselves. Once opened, the formula has to be refrigerated, and does not keep well. Discard after the baby birds are fledged, and if you have to, start again with a new pack.

    The parrot formula works quite well for baby doves and a variety of omnivorous softbills. Follow the instructions on the package. Mix the formula, fill it into a syringe, and, holding the bird’s beak gently, squirt some down the gullet until you see the crop distend. Please be very careful as it is only too easy to over-fill the crop of a small, young bird.

    Repeat every three hours during daylight until the bird starts to feed itself, which should take about three weeks.

    Buy a quantity of syringes too. The syringes are meant to be used only once for human medical purposes, but I usually manage to make mine last for up to a dozen feedings, after which they break down.

    Despite our webmaster YC’s admonition to as far as possible leave the feeding of baby birds to their parents, there are times when this is absolutely unavoidable.

    I will share my experiences on this troublesome and unrewarding practice in a forthcoming article.

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  5. Are you sure that matter is indeed bird waste? It would seem highly illogical (and inconceivable henceforth) for a bird to build a nest made entirely from waste, or to drop waste in or around its nest.

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