So where did they go? Remember those doves that started appearing in Smithers back in 2010? The Eurasian collared doves with the deep kuk kooooo kuk song that, at first everyone thought was so beautiful. However, within four years there were so many of them in the area and they would start kuk koooing at dawn and keep it up all day long. After a while the cooing of the doves was becoming annoying.
We counted 119 on the 2013 Christmas Bird Count, but we only got one on the 2021 count. A friend asked last week: “What happened to them all?”
That is a good question. The Eurasian collared dove, originally from the Middle East, is an invasive species that was accidentally introduced into the Bahamas in 1974 from Europe. From there they rapidly expanded into Florida and moved into the western and, ultimately, northwestern U.S. First sightings were reported in Vancouver in 2005. By 2012, they were found all through B.C. to at least to Stewart and even in Coastal Alaska – always in locations where people reside and provided them with an easy food source.
There were reports of people having seen young ones being fed in Smithers, so we guess they were breeding here, although no one did an actual count during breeding bird season as far as I know.
So why did their numbers start to decline? Some said that they were being replaced by wood pigeons in southern BC, but wood pigeons were not the culprits up here. Others suggested the doves succumbed to disease.
My guess is they were caught by raptors. I remember one Christmas people talking about all the grain that had been accidentally spilled along the railway tracks coming into Smithers station and how the doves and other birds (mallards especially) were feeding on it. Birds feeding on the grain were being picked off by Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and even a gyrfalcon cruised the railroad for a good part of one winter. By Christmas 2019, only two doves were counted.
Even though a few folks still consider their cooing romantic, I am quite happy that they have declined. While there was no clear evidence here that they were displacing other species here in Smithers, there was concern that they were impacting our native mourning dove further south in B.C.