What is a “squab” when it is not a short, fat person or a type of cushion? And what is the difference between a “dove” and a “pigeon”?
Well, a squab is the term used for a young, unfledged pigeon or dove. It is sometimes applied to other young birds, but usually to pigeons and doves. And in general there is no difference between doves and pigeons; the terms are used interchangeably. There is a tendency for “dove” to be used for the smaller of the Columbidae family and “pigeon” for the larger birds, but even this is not consistent. The bird known until quite recently as a “Feral pigeon”, for example, is now known as a “Rock dove”. Quite confusing really.
The Speckled pigeon is about the same size as the Rock dove (or Feral pigeon), with a length of about 33 cm. Its neck, breast, back and upper-wings are a maroon-brown; it is speckled with white on its neck and spotted with white on its wings. Its head, rump and the rest of its under-parts are grey. The most diagnostic characteristic, though, are its red eye-patches that surround its yellow eyes. The sexes are alike in both plumage and size.
The Speckled pigeon is widespread throughout Africa South of the Sahara and in Southern Africa it is a common resident in most areas, although it is absent from most of Zimbabwe. It prefers mountains, gorges, koppies, and hills, but it is also comfortable in the presence of humans and it is at home in rural or urban buildings. It feeds mainly on the ground, on seeds and green shoots and can often be found on cultivated lands.
Its call is a series of mellow coos, doo, doo, doo, which may be repeated up to twenty times.
The Speckled pigeon is monogamous, its nest a flimsy platform of sticks and grass usually on the ledge of a cliff or building. The clutch usually consists of two white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 16 days. Unlike most other birds, doves and pigeons produce “crop milk”, which is secreted by cells lining the crop. Both males and females produce this highly nutritious “milk” to feed to the young. They are thought to live for about 10 years.
The scientific name for the Speckled pigeon is Columba guinea; “columba” being the Latin word for a pigeon or dove and “guinea” being derived from the West African region of Guinea. Hence the pigeon (or dove) from West Africa. Quite simple really!