For the next month or so, I’d like to focus on doves.
For the longest time, the mourning dove was the only species of these birds one could see in this area or the rest of Oklahoma for that matter. Well, not including the rock dove (pigeon). I will eventually feature the mourning dove, but a variety of other doves now inhabit the area, so I will start with one of them, the Eurasian Collared-dove.
This bird moved into the United States around 1980 and spread like wildfire. Now, the way this bird entered our fine country is very interesting. Very. They were sold as pet birds in another country, but some escaped and thrived in the wild.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that during the mid-1970s, a burglary was committed at a pet shop in the Bahamas. Several Eurasian Collared-doves escaped from their caged environs during the burglary. The pet shop owner then later released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. The birds later spread to Florida.
I told you it was interesting! I wonder what I was doing when the first birds arrived in Florida. Probably playing with Star Wars toys.
Now, I have many books about birds which span many years. Some are so old, they don’t even mention the Eurasian Collared-dove. I also have some which show the birds’ range as being only in Florida and the southern portions of the Gulf states.
In one of those books, from the early 1990s, it mentions the species “threatens to spread across the entire continent.” Well, it certainly has spread across but has not covered the entire continent.
It seems the birds have yet to occupy the northeast portion of the country, the Great Lakes region, and Canada. Perhaps they are not fond of the extreme cold. I know the feeling!
I remember the first time I saw a Eurasian Collared-dove — I cannot recall the year, but it’s been a while. I thought to myself, “That is the plumpest mourning dove I’ve ever seen!” Upon further inspection, I realized I was looking at a new species of dove. New to me, anyway.
Now, I normally do not care much for invasive species — starlings, house sparrows, etc. — but these doves do not appear to be harming the populations of native birds, as other invasive species have.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that although it is an invasive species, studies on interactions between Eurasian Collared-doves and other species have “not yet” shown a negative impact on populations of native birds, including mourning doves. That’s good news!
Although I used to do a double-take to identify this bird, it is now quite easy for me. The Eurasian Collared-dove appears similar to the mourning dove and the white-winged dove, however, it is larger and lacks the black spots that adorn the wings of the mourning dove, and, the Eurasian Collared-dove has a black half-ring (or collar, if you will) around the nape of its neck.
The mourning dove and the white-winged dove have black spots on the sides of their necks, but no “collar.”
It is lighter in color than the mourning dove — a very light brown and beige overall. Also, it lacks the white stripes on the wings of the white-winged dove and has a longer tail. If viewing the Collared-dove from a short distance, one can also see the bird has red irises around the pupils of its eyes.
Just stick with me in the next few weeks and you will be an expert at identifying area doves.
Habitat and feeding
The Eurasian Collared-dove inhabits urban and suburban areas. It is no stranger to open farmland, either. It will readily come to feeders and likes millet seed, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, oats and even milo. Most birds won’t eat milo. It’s the big orange seed companies use as filler in cheap bird seed.
I read somewhere that Collared-doves will sometimes chase other birds from feeding areas, but I have never witnessed this behavior. In fact, the collared-doves that visit my feeders always seem very calm. Maybe it’s because I provide multiple varieties of seed which I keep spread about so the birds don’t get cramped. Though, it’s only a theory.
Eurasian Collared-doves are monogamous. To impress a female, the male displays by flying up at a steep angle with noisy wingbeats, then glides down in a spiral with wings and tail fully spread, giving a harsh call during the glide, according to the National Audubon Society. Males also attract females by calling and by ritualized bowing display.
They nest in trees and on building ledges, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A male will bring the female nesting materials and she will build the nest. She will then lay one to two eggs.
Incubation occurs over two to three weeks. Young will be ready to leave the nest after about 15 to 20 days. However, parents will tend to their young for a week or so after they have left the nest. Couples will raise three to six broods per year. But, in Oklahoma, it is probably more like three or maybe four broods. Six broods in a year usually only occurs in very warm climates like Florida, South Texas and Mexico.
Odds and ends
• As an introduced species, Eurasian Collared-doves are not protected from hunting and have become popular game birds in rural areas of the Southeast and Texas, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
• The Lab reports the Eurasian collared-dove can drink water through its beak like a straw, whereas most birds must scoop water using their beak.
• According to the Lab, the Eurasian Collared-dove’s species name, decaocto, comes from Greek mythology. Decaocto was a servant girl transformed into a dove by the gods to escape her unhappy treatment; the dove’s mournful cry recalls her former life.
To conclude, let me say that the next time you see a Eurasian collared-dove in your backyard, remember, it came to be that way because of a 1970s Bahamian burglary!
Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid birdwatcher, nature enthusiast and photographer for 40 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.