Ring necked doves tend to attract the same bad press as the common pigeon, but in general we’ve always had a fond tolerance for them. They’re not quite so messy or aggressive as pigeons, and once they get used to you, they can become quite confident, almost tame.
We’ve wintered a couple of times at Los Gigantes, Tenerife which is a picturesque harbour town beneath towering cliffs, hence the name. At the first apartment we were specifically asked not to feed the doves, and the owners had stretched wire about three inches above the top of the balcony rail to prevent them perching there. No such restrictions at the second apartment, and our balcony there soon attracted the attention of half a dozen regular visitors from the dove community. Toast crumbs, biscuits, crisps were always welcome to our new friends.
Suddenly we noticed that he’d frozen in position, his head half twisted at an uncomfortable angle, completely unmoving. We watched for several minutes before we scanned the rooftops around us and detected the reason for his complete immobilisation.
A large hawk, one of several we’d observed wheeling gracefully around the cliff face, was perched on a chimney about fifty yards away with his eyes firmly focused on our poor dove.
The minutes passed, with all parties remaining totally still. If we had moved we might have startled the dove into flight, thus triggering the hawk attack. (Doves commonly fall prey to hawks, who capture them in mid-flight and literally squeeze them to death as they hold them away from their bodies, or submerse them in water until they drown.)
So we sat there, immobile, observing.
Clouds scudded by, eventually covering the sun. Still no movement from any of us.
And then it began to rain…
And we continued to sit there… wondering how long this exercise in self-preservation could possibly last.
A short while later, by which time we were uncomfortably damp, we detected a visible relaxation in the posture of the dove, and turning to the chimney we saw that the hawk had tired of the vigil and flown away.
A few minutes later, the sun came out, a greatly relieved dove flew away, and a rainbow emerged over the sea.