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Zebra doves

As long as these carefree little pigeons are not left out in the cold, they are happy to perch and watch the world go by, says BILL NAYLOR – if you can spot them, that is!

Even the legs and feet of a zebra dove share the barred pattern

THE zebra dove (Geopelia striata) from Indonesia and Malaysia is not as common in western aviculture as its smaller relative the diamond dove (G. cuneata), but in Thailand it has been a popular cage bird for centuries. There, it’s considered a good luck charm and a songster.

This popularity led to some wild populations suffering due to trapping, but it’s now increasingly captive-bred to meet demand. Singing contests, which should perhaps be called cooing contests, are held at major venues where single doves are housed in basket cages. When calling, they arch their back and lift their tails as they produce their call, but unlike the monotone coos of other doves they make a musical coo-cuckoo-coo sound.

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Thumbs down for the moanies

The thing with our hobby’s full-time whingers is that they won’t put or shut up, sighs Brian Keenan

Be polite to show judges – especially this one

It never ceases to amaze me how much damage negative people can inflict on our hobby. Rather than congratulating those around them on the good work they are doing, they find the least little thing to moan and groan about.

Now I am not suggesting that we resort to the American way – you know the stuff, “Good job!”, “Whoopee, you’ve been to the loo” or some such guff. (Then they go and spoil it all by being unable to spell and failing to pronounce “tomato” correctly.)

No, I am talking about everyday events in bird clubs or show halls up and down the country.

Our hobby is run by well-meaning, mainly unpaid amateurs, out of the kindness of their hearts. Every club official is putting themselves and their own birds second and their hobby first, for the good of others. And as AGM times approach, the last thing any of our hard-working officials need, is to have someone niggling away at the least little thing, like a dog with a bone. There is no future in that, and in some cases it may be the last straw that finally breaks an official’s back.

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Superb fruit doves

 

With a stunning, colourful plumage, BILL NAYLOR explains why these birds are superb by name and superb by nature

Male superb fruit doves can be identified by their striking lilac crown

IN THE tropics of New Guinea and Australia, groups of brightly coloured birds crash around in the tree canopy feeding on figs, berries and other fruit. Referred to as “parrot pigeons” by some native people, they can be mistaken for parrots, but their loud wing beats and robust method of fruit picking identifies them as fruit doves.

Most of the 50-plus species of fruit doves in the genus Ptilinopus possess a variety of colours, and are among the most beautiful birds in the world.

One of the most popular of those kept in captivity is the superb fruit dove (Ptilinopus superbus), which lives up to its name – with a deep-lilac crown, chestnut-orange collar, and body plumage of blue and moss green. The female is predominantly green, and like most females of this genus, lacks the male’s variety of colours, including his lilac crown.

Superb and other fruit doves can be kept in attractively planted enclosures, and in warmer climates their aviaries are often planted with fruiting shrubs and trees.

In the UK fruit doves require heating in winter and are usually kept in flights with adjoining heated quarters, or in tropical house enclosures.

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Families in Focus: Pigeons

A pigeon’s just a pigeon, right? Not at all, says Bill Naylor – there’s a superb variety of species in this successful family, and many are stars of major collections around the world

King of the columbids: Victoria crowned pigeon

There are almost as many species of pigeons as there are parrots. Found in all habitats, and in every part of the world except the Arctic and Antarctic, they vary in size from the ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti) at 15cm (6in) long, to the Victoria crowned pigeon (Goura victoria), which is the size of a hen turkey. (The extinct flightless dodo and solitaire – both of the pigeon family – were even bigger.)

Some species have head plumes or crests, such as the Spinifex pigeon (Geophaps plumifera) and the topknot pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus). The cuckoo-doves (Macropygia) and quail-doves (Geotrygon) have reminded their describers of species quite different from pigeons. Some species have a body like a partridges, for example the common bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) and the Wonga pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca) from Australia. The pheasant pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) from New Guinea, as well as the crowned pigeons from the same region, have evolved to resemble gamebirds.

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Avian predators vs songbirds

The abundance of bird predators – corvids, hawks and others – in our gardens and countryside is a pressing issue. One birdkeeper with strong credentials on this subject is GRAHAM WELLSTEAD, a professional falconer and song canary expert who has also observed the changing role of bird predators at first hand. Here’s what he has to say…

There is no doubt that sparrowhawks do kill small birds, but are they the main predator?

First of all I should declare an interest. I am a practising falconer – have been since 1949, flying many species, but with a particular interest in sparrowhawks. So I was interested to read articles in the national press on the subject of culling magpies and crows initially, followed possibly by a wider cull, including buzzards and sparrowhawks. However, I should say at the outset that the population increases of songbird predators do not tell the story properly.

Figures quoted in national newspapers include:
■ Sparrowhawk numbers up by 152 per cent since 1975
■ Carrion crows up by 119 per cent
■ Jackdaws up by 103 per cent
■ Magpies up by 98 per cent
■ Buzzards up by 60 per cent since 1967

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