Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doves

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One of the interesting things about being a birder in southeast Texas is watching how some species have gradually been extending their range into our area. One example is the Crested Caracara. A couple of decades ago, Caracaras were rarely seen around Houston but now they are common all over the Katy Prairie and at coastal sites such as High Island and Brazoria NWR, and they often turn up within Houston itself.

An even better example is the White-winged Dove. When I came to Houston 8 years ago, White-winged Doves were moving up from south Texas but were normally only found west of I-45 or on the coast. (I remember being very excited to see my very first White-winged on a trip to Galveston in 2003.) They are now common all over our area and even further east along the Gulf coast.

With white edges on their wings and tails, they are striking birds.

The bright blue ring around their eye makes them more striking still.



Unfortunately, their arrival in our area seems to be bad news for other doves. When we moved to Cypress in 2005, our yards were visited regularly by both Mourning and Inca Doves. These days we rarely if ever see either of these two species here because White-winged Doves have taken over. One probable reason for their success is that they are significantly larger than Mourning and Inca Doves. Another may be that they form larger flocks: We regularly get 20, 30 o even 40 at a time in our yards. A third reason may be that they seem to be very adaptable in their foraging habits. Ground feeders by nature, many of ours have learned to eat - admittedly with considerable difficulty - from our seed and suet feeders.  This presumably gives them quite an edge over doves that are restricted to feeding on the ground.
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7 comments:

John said...

When my wife and I moved to Cypress 15+ years ago, seeing Black-bellied Whistling Ducks took quite a bit more effort than today. Brazos Bend SP was our most reliable local spot to see Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. My first yard record of BBWD was not until 2002.

Jeff said...

Even now they seem to be getting more common every year. For the past 3 years we've had several pairs breeding on the retention ponds at CyFair.

Alan Whitehead said...

Great stuff Geoff. Keeps me in touch with my favourite US Birding State. Brings back many memories. Must get back sometime soon!

Jeff said...

Hi, Alan. Texas is certainly a great place for birding, especially in April-May. Hope you make it back here some time.

Crystal said...

I'm new to being a bird lover and I have came across your site several times in my search for identifying them and have found it so very useful, as I am a Southeast Texan (Lumberton)

Crystal said...

I'm new to being a bird lover and I have came across your site several times in my search for identifying them and have found it so very useful, as I am a Southeast Texan (Lumberton)

Jeff said...

Hi, Crystal. I'm glad you find my blog useful. Good birding!