IS THIS UNUSUAL MATING?
Q I’m attaching a photo taken on my mobile phone the other day at Port Solent, Portsmouth. A dove and a pigeon mated right in front of us. Is this unusual, as I have never seen it happen before. Mavis Elliot, Waterlooville
A This would seem to be an unusual event. The bird on top appears to be a Collared Dove, but it is hard to determine what species the pigeon below is, but it certainly appears to be one of the Columba species (Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon or Stock Dove), perhaps even a juvenile. Cross-species (and cross-genus) mating is rather rarer in the wild than it is in captivity, where Collared Doves have been known to hybridise with domestic pigeons. Among birds, this sort of behaviour seems to be relatively common in ducks, and in gulls. That being said, Feral Pigeons are so variable in plumage that there may be more Collared Dove, Woodpigeon or Stock Dove hybrids around than may at first be obvious. If any of our readers out there have actually seen examples of cross-species mating, we’d be very interested to hear about them.