Pasta, pizza, even ice cream, do not excite the taste buds quite like its most delicious of spring delicacies.

Colomba di Pasqua, otherwise known as Dove Cake, even soars above their other festive favourite, panettone, not simply because it replaces raisins with pearl sugar and almonds, but in the way it comes in the shape of a dove. No birds have a closer relationship with humanity than pigeons and doves. Note that the name is interchangeable: the street pigeon’s wild alter ego is the rock dove.

Doves were first domesticated in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago and have gone on to provide us with their meat, the understated beauty of their plumage as well as running our messages. Albeit, they do leave a few themselves.

More Dickin Medals, the animals’ Victoria Cross, have also been presented to pigeons for their gallantry than to service dogs, war horses and naval cats combined.

The population of their country cousins, wood pigeons, expanded by 162 per cent between 1967 and 2014 to about six million pairs but its meteoric rise has been eclipsed by both the shy, nondescript stock dove as well as the collared dove.

Doves were first domesticated in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago

Stock dove numbers have risen by 212 per cent since the mid-1960s while collared doves increased 327 per cent between 1972 and 2014.

But one dove species, perhaps the very one immortalised by the tradition of Colomba cake, has suffered the most serious recent decline of any British bird: the diffident, delectable turtle dove.

Few migratory birds match the beauty of this small dove with its tortoiseshell patterning and soft, rippling song. Indeed, its scientific name, Streptopelia turtur, is a reference to the haunting purr it delivers each spring.

The sound has become muted across Europe but nowhere worse than in the UK. Turtle dove numbers here have crashed by 97 per cent since England won the 1966 World Cup. Extinction on our shores seems inevitable over the next few decades.

If ever a bird needed celebrating this Easter, it is the turtle dove. Despite a hunting moratorium on Malta, they still face a fraught spring journey from African wintering grounds to a heavily farmed European landscape increasingly bereft of the hedgerows and copses they require for nesting. Herbicides destroying their weedy food, protozoan parasites and droughts south of the Sahara have only added to their woes.

For all their veneration in Biblical scripts and traditional songs – they are gifted in the Twelve Days of Christmas – turtle doves need just the kind of hero championed in one of the original stories about Colomba cake.

So goes the legend that Fifth Century Lombard warrior King Alboin was so smitten by the gift of a dove-shaped cake during a bitter siege, he not only offered a truce but vowed to always respect doves.

It saved the virtue of 12 virgins offered as peace tokens when, on asking the maidens their names, each told the king it was Dove.


About Pigeon Patrol:

Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.

Voted Best Canadian wholesaler for Bird Deterrent products four years in a row.

Contact Info: 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD (