Aluco laid 5 eggs this year, which is the most she has ever laid. Three quarters of the way through incubation, all seemed to be going well. It has been a bit of a struggle to cover all 5 and, with 30 days incubation, it is a very long time to be sat almost 24 hrs a day in one spot!
This nest box is always popular and other species compete for it at various points. Once Aluco is incubating, she is very protective of her space and has attacked squirrels and stock doves in the past.
This week, she was snoozing in the box. A pair of stock doves were outside. She is not concerned about their presence as they do not present any threat to her. This one dove was perfectly at ease. It looked inside the box. It obviously could not see Aluco sitting, perfectly still and camouflaged on the substrate at the bottom of the box.
What happened next was pretty dramatic.
The dove, not seeing Aluco, jumped into the nest box, landing right on top of her. In a fraction of a second, ALuco attacked, fearing the dove was attacking her and her potential family. The dove, attempting to escape a couple of times, was grabbed by Aluco, who killed it in just a few seconds.
WARNING! This video shows graphic content of the dove being killed.
Not only did the stock dove lose its life, but sadly, so did some of the potential tawnies. One egg was smashed in the bedlam and another is damaged. I have no idea how much damage was done to the other three.
Aluco was obviously stressed by the experience and was very agitated for the rest of the day. She ate some of the dove, but it was a large bird to have in the box. She tried to move it so she could resume incubation of her eggs.
Throughout the day, she tried to move it out of the way..
We have just over a week before the eggs are due to hatch, at which point we will know what damage was caused.
Aluco has been very unsettled for a few days and continues to try to get the dove out of the box. Now she has virtually eaten it all, it may be easier to do and I think she will have removed it in the next few days. Let's hope we don't have any more dramas now. I don't think I could cope! I become very invested in these families and it is hard to try to retain an element of detachment from the individuals. This is nature though and it can be harsh.