Although I could hear the Lesser-striped Swallows cheeping from their perch on the bathroom window, the Hadeda Ibises telling the townsfolk to wake up a good half an hour before sunrise, and the Red-chested Cuckoo calling in the distance, the first bird I actually saw this morning was a Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata).

Red-eyed dove

The Laughing Doves are far more common in our garden and settle on the lawn in droves whenever I sprinkle seed out. I am always pleased though when the Red-eyed Doves drop by to forage on the ground too, for I hear them more often than I see them. Usually I only see one or two, but this morning there were five of them. They generally prefer being in the large branches of the fig tree and often perch in the top branches of other trees around the lawn. The white-ironwood (Vepris lanceolate) is a favourite, especially when it is bearing fruit.

The colouring of the Red-eyed Doves is very attractive, from their bluish-grey head to their darker mauve-pink underparts. The black ring around their necks is striking (it is amazing how often people confuse them with the much smaller Cape Turtle Dove – possibly because they simply look at the ring or because this used to be known as the Red-eyed Turtle Dove) and, of course, their characteristic red eyes that are particularly pretty when catching the light. Unlike other doves, they have no white in their tails – in the above image what looks like a white tail is the sun shining on it.

Red-eyed Dove

Their call has ‘officially’ been described as a series of deep cooing phrases “koo-ROOkuku, KOO ku”, repeated without pause several times. I used to hear them like that. Since spending ten days camping in the Dundee area in KwaZulu-Natal whilst exploring various sites of military history interest and having to rise early, I now hear them calling “Better get STARTED, better get STARTED” as that is what they seemed to be telling me when I felt the urge to lie in just a little bit longer!

Red-eyed Dove

Red-eyed Doves drink regularly. This one was photographed in the Boksburg garden I wrote about a long time ago.

Red-eyed Dove


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