I came across the delightful bird in the series of three images below during a recent walk around Cardiff Bay. Sitting quietly in a tree by the footpath, it was indulging in a good preening, running its beak repeatedly down through its fluffed-up chest feathers. It’s a Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), a bird you’re often more likely to hear than to see, its continuous cooing floating down from the leafy trees where it’s sitting.
Amazingly, these birds only immigrated to Britain in the 1950s – they’re native to the Middle East but gradually spread across Europe before crossing the Channel, and they’re now very common garden visitors in villages and towns across the country. In Fauna Britannica, Richard Mabey notes that this incredible spread, more than any other European bird in the past 50 years, has been attributed to ‘a genetic mutation that affected the birds’ sense of direction and encouraged them to move north and west’, though the British Trust for Ornithology believes natural selection has probably now reduced this tendency. If it hadn’t, the birds would all be flying off over the Atlantic, a trip they probably wouldn’t survive.