The Spotted Dove A Charming Introduced Species in Australia

Spotted Dove

The Spotted Dove in Australia

The Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis), also known as the Spotted Turtle-Dove or Pearl-necked Dove, is a beautiful and widely recognized bird in Australia. Despite not being native to the continent, this species has successfully established itself and has become a common sight in many urban and suburban areas.

  • Spotted Doves are noted for their soft brown plumage, speckled with white spots on a striking black neck patch, and their long, expressive tails that enhance their elegant flight.
  • Primarily feeding on seeds and grains, these doves are also known to visit urban areas for scraps, demonstrating their versatile and opportunistic feeding strategies.
  • These doves breed throughout the year, with a peak in spring and summer. Their mating displays, involving aerial acrobatics and intricate dances, underscore their complex social behaviors.

Origin and Distribution

Contrary to popular belief, the Spotted Dove is not native to Australia. It was introduced from Southeast Asia in the 1860s, with the first recorded release in Melbourne. Subsequent introductions occurred in Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth. Since then, the species has expanded its range and can now be found in many parts of eastern Australia, as well as in some areas of South Australia and Western Australia.


The Spotted Dove is a medium-sized dove, typically measuring 28-32 cm in length. Its most distinctive feature is the black collar with white spots on the back of its neck, which gives the bird its common name. The upper parts of the body are light brown, with darker centers on the feathers of the back and wings. The head is grey, while the underparts are pinkish-grey. The tail is long and has white tips, which are visible when the bird is in flight. Both sexes appear similar, but juvenile birds have a grey collar instead of the black and white one.

Behavior and Ecology

Spotted Doves are generally found in pairs or small groups, foraging on the ground for seeds, grains, and occasional insects. They are often seen in urban parks, gardens, and agricultural areas, where they can find plenty of food sources. When startled, they take off with a distinctive whistling sound made by their wings.

During the breeding season, which can occur throughout the year if conditions are favorable, male Spotted Doves perform a display flight to attract females. They fly steeply upwards, clapping their wings, and then glide down with their wings and tail spread. The nest is a simple platform of twigs, usually built in a tree or shrub. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Spotted Dove vs. Turtle Dove

Although the Spotted Dove is sometimes called the Spotted Turtle-Dove, it is not the same species as the European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur). The main difference between the two is their appearance: the European Turtle-Dove lacks the distinctive black and white spotted collar of the Spotted Dove and has a more pinkish-brown coloration overall.

Are Spotted Doves Pests?

While Spotted Doves are not considered a major pest in Australia, there are some concerns about their impact on native bird species. They may compete with native doves for food and nesting sites, and their success in urban areas could potentially lead to a decline in native bird populations. However, more research is needed to fully understand the ecological impact of Spotted Doves in Australia.

Symbolic Meaning

In some cultures, doves are seen as symbols of peace, love, and harmony. Seeing a Spotted Dove, therefore, could be interpreted as a positive sign or a reminder to find inner peace and nurture relationships.

The Spotted Dove, with its distinctive appearance and gentle cooing, has become a beloved part of the Australian urban landscape. While it is not native to the continent, it has successfully adapted to its new environment and appears to be co-existing with native species for over a century. As with any introduced species, it is important to monitor their impact on the ecosystem and take necessary steps to protect native biodiversity. Nonetheless, the Spotted Dove’s presence adds a touch of charm and beauty to Australia’s already diverse avifauna.