Spilopelia senegalensis “Gregory”

Realistic digital illustration.
This drawing has a sentimental side. The pigeon is called Gregory. It is a species of small wild pigeon (laughing dove, Spilopelia senegalensis) that occurred in the area where I lived for some time in South Africa (it occurs almost everywhere in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Western Australia). They are completely silent; I just heard a unique sound in the male when he mates.
Every day I could see several species of birds all in the wild by the house patio, and among them there was a pair of these laughing doves, and the lonely Gregory.
One day we decided to take some seeds out to photograph and observe the behaviour of the birds. It was a very interesting experiment to learn about the behaviour of different species and individuals within groups.
Gregory, at the beginning, like the rest, always fled whenever I appeared on the scene, and with time and depending on the species, they got to know me and allowed me to pass different safety distances.
This male always appeared alone, and after a few weeks he decided that I was not enough of a threat to fly, but he stopped eating and retreated to his safety distance; later that distance was reduced day by day.
Another change in behaviour was that he was not a dominant bird, firstly because he could not get a mate, and then because he lacked the black plumage patches on his chest typical of a dominant adult male. The male of the visiting pair did have them, so Gregory would give up the feeding position as soon as the visitor couple appeared. That was in the beginning, and it was natural. Eventually, when I showed up or was there and Gregory decided not to run away, the couple showed up and poor Gregory lost the reward for his bravery. It seemed very unfair, and I began to try what worked with other species; as soon as I moved any part of my body, the pair flew away and Gregory could eat in peace; he didn’t even pause to watch around as usual from that moment if I was there.
Gregory continued to learn and began to try resisting when the other male came to eat, but without much success.
Another thing he learned was the sound of his name. I think that also as a result of the couple individuals learning, sometimes the first bird to appear was the female. At the moment I put some seeds on the floor, the male came instantly. As Gregory had no visible distinguishing marks as a male, it was easy to confuse between Gregory and the female, and in some way the female was aware of that!! so I started to greet him by mentioning his name. I did this from the beginning only when I was sure that Gregory was Gregory, and in a few days he was always stop eating and look at me for an instant if he listened that sound; so the female never reacted to that sound, but Gregory always did; this time I learned 😉
But at the same time that the female was not responding to the sound, Gregory appeared in a few seconds from his tree. That’s why I talk about Gregory like this, because it’s not just that I gave him a name, it’s that he learned it.
The days passed and Gregory felt more confident, and he was already managing to repel the other male’s attacks. A few days later, he became the king of that terrace. If the other male came within 3 meters of where he was eating, Gregory was running with his little legs toward the intruder like a rocket and forcefully chase him away.
At that point I was already aware of being changing natural behaviors, but continuing being natural situations, and the following is what impressed me the most. It happened that Gregory, once he had finished eating (this happened in the mornings) instead of leaving to continue his day, stayed there watching how the rest of the different birds ate and socialized.
In the afternoons, if the weather permitted, I used to sit outside and watch the sunset over the ocean, but I was not taking out any food for the birds. Well, Gregory began to appear, I greeted him and day by day he got closer, to the point of standing on the table next to me, and remaining there calmly. I don’t know how to explain it, it may seem silly, but it seemed to me that he wanted to stand at the same height as me and share the same thing that I was looking, perhaps trying to understand what I was doing there every afternoon when the sun went down.
And that way I got a sunset companion even on days when he had a hard time walking because of the strong gusts of wind (it was funny to see him take those quick steps against the wind).
And the day came to leave South Africa, and I have to tell you that it was difficult for me to say goodbye to Gregory. I know that he is fine nowadays, that he is still the king of the terrace, and that he has entered the house (that’s new) several times. He is receiving seeds every day like the others, so perhaps he is looking for me, who knows.
I always treated him the wayt he is, a wild animal, and all the approaches came from him; I always stayed in my place. This is the sory of a natural relationship between a wild dove and a human who loves and respect nature.
Well, this portrait is my tribute to my good friend Gregory.