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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Stock Dove bonanza

Stock Doves don't often appear on birder's radar, but they should. They are a fairly recent colonist to Kerry, arriving for the first time in the early 1950's and while it would be nice to say that, like Little Egret, they have gone from strength to strength, that's not the case. The Bird Atlas for 1968 to 1972 showed Stock Doves to be nesting in most Kerry 10km squares. But that was their best moment. Since then, it has been a slow, continuous decline.

They are now a scarce breeding birding the Kingdom. They are 'cavity nesters', needing a large enough hole in a tree or old building in which to nest. Unlike their close relative, the Rock Dove, they shun coastal cliff sites and urban areas, so are more limited in their choice of potential nest sites. Being Kerry, there are also few enough areas with suitable mature trees and, as I know from visiting so many derelict buildings, ruined castles and abandoned farms which might have Barn Owls, there are only a small handful of those in which Stock Doves chose to nest (see e.g., this post HERE). More often than not, Rock Doves (or feral doves) are in residence.

At best, there must be only about 20 to 40 pairs of Stock Dove nesting in Kerry. Terry Carruthers in his book, The Birds of Killarney National Park,  estimated 20 to 30 pairs there in the early 1990s, but from my own experience doing bird surveys there, and Bird Atlas findings since, that would now seem optimistic.

Flock of Stock Doves and Rock Doves, Carrahane, 12th February 2018 (Kilian Kelly).

So what are up to 150+ Stock Doves doing around Carrahane at the moment?
 Seems the 'setaside' fields there are providing plenty of feeding.

Flock of Stock Doves and Rock Doves hiding in the field, Carrahane, 17th February 2018 (M.O'Clery).

There must be an element of winter immigration going on here. But from where? Stock Doves are generally thought of as non-migratory but, no doubt, would disperse locally in winter to feed. Perhaps these are mainly Cork and Tipperary birds? Or from further afield? I'd love to know.

Flock of Stock Doves and Rock Doves, Carrahane, 17th February 2018 (M.O'Clery).

Flock of Stock Doves and Rock Doves, about half and half, with a couple of 'Feral'-type Rock Doves thrown in, Carrahane, 17th February 2018 (M.O'Clery).

Flock of Stock Doves and Rock Doves, Carrahane, 17th February 2018 (M.O'Clery).

There are several counts of 100 to 150 Stock Doves at a few sites on the east coast (e.g., see, but the estimated 300 at Carrahane in January 2013 is perhaps the largest gathering ever recorded in Ireland.