Thursday, July 12, 2012

Doves in Southeast Texas

A while back a friend was asking me about some large birds that have started visiting his feeders. From the description he gave, I was able to tell him that the birds were White-winged Doves, a species that seems to be really flourishing in our area.

As we see a lot of doves in our area, here's a brief overview of the five species of doves that we see around Houston. Three of these five species are native to Texas while the other two have been introduced.

Rock Dove

Now a familiar sight in every American town and city, Rock Doves (or Rock Pigeons) were introduced into the USA by European settlers several hundred years ago. While most are gray, some are brown and others pure white. They are most commonly seen in flocks in urban settings, such as town squares and supermarket parking lots.

Eurasian Collared Dove

The Eurasian Collared Dove was introduced into the USA in the 1970s and has spread rapidly across the country. This large, pale gray bird is easy to recognize because of the distinctive dark collar around the back of its neck. Resident pairs of these doves are an increasingly common sight in suburban subdivisions such as ours.

White-winged Dove

This large brownish-gray bird, a native of south Texas, has been successfully spreading northwards in recent years and is now common in yards in southeast Texas. Its white-edged wings distinguish it from other doves, as does its frequent "who cooks for you" call. When it flies, the white wing stripes are very visible, and so too is the wide crescent of white near the end of the tail. White-winged Doves rarely appear individually; if one comes to your yard, it is almost certain soon to be followed by several more. We regularly get 12-30 (and sometimes more) of them doves in our yards.

Like other doves, White-winged Doves are ground feeders. However, they are learning to adapt and we often see them clinging to or standing on our hanging feeders.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are smaller than White-winged or Eurasian Collared Doves. Identifying features are a blue eye-ring and black spots on the lower back; also, when they fly, a white diamond pattern is visible on their tails. They make a gentle hooting noise, often mistaken for the hooting of an owl. Originally birds of the southern USA, they have gradually spread throughout the country and are now one of the most common US species. Their numbers are currently estimated at about 400 million. They tend to visit suburban yards in small groups or even individually.

Inca Dove

The Inca Dove is significantly smaller than our other doves and the scaly pattern of feathers on its back make it easy to identify. Another distinctive feature is the rusty red color of the underneath of its wings when it flies. Often thought of as a desert bird, it is actually much happier in suburban and rural areas. It can travel in flocks but in our area it is more commonly seen in pairs or small groups.

Yard Note
When we first moved to Cypress seven years ago, our yards regularly attracted three types of doves: Mourning, Inca and White-winged. However, then the White-winged Doves seemed to take over almost completely. It has now been years since we last saw an Inca Dove in our yards but we've been thrilled to see a few Mourning Doves have turned up again this year.


Nora said...

thank you for the great pictures! I live in urban austin but have a tiny fenced garden where I feed birds. I have been seeing Inca doves of late, but had no idea what/who they were. Your article settled the question. Thanks! Ginger

Holly F said...

I was interested in the type of Dove that was coming to my yard since this was the first summer that we have had Doves in our yard and they do come in groups and stay on the ground but some of the bigger White Winged Doves like to sit in the feeder and eat, they don't seem to be to bothered by me being out there on the porch watching them. Thank you for the information. I just love them..

Lucinda said...

Wonderful information and photos! I have been sitting on my back porch enjoying the variety of birds helping themselves to the feeders and crumbles of bread I sometimes offer, wondering what type of doves I had. They are the White Winged Doves, and I thank you for your article! ~ Lucinda