Grays Harbor Birds — Eurasian Collared-Dove

I have wanted to do an article on this bird for a few years, since I began to realize just how invasive it has become, and in record time.

One story has it imported to the Bahamas where several birds escaped during a mid-1970’s burglary of a pet shop after which the owner released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. Others were set free on the island of Guadeloupe when a volcano threated to erupt. They then made their way northwest across the United States and have rapidly spread, even into Alaska.

The first western Washington record came from Stanwood in 2003, and the leading edge of the main wave arrived in May of 2005. During the 2009 Grays Harbor Christmas Bird Count, we found 32 doves; by 2012 we counted 106. It would appear they are here to stay. This photo was taken by Steve Hepp and sent to me by his wife Helen, asking for the identification; finally a photo to begin my article.

Size: 13 to 14 inches tall, with a wingspan of 22 inches, and weighing 7 ounces

General Description: Larger and heavier than a Mourning Dove, the collared-dove is plump, with a small head, dark eye and bill, and red legs. It is an overall pale grayish color with warmer, light brown on the back, a broad fan-shaped tail edged with white, dark primaries, and its most distinguishing trait…a black band or collar around the nape of its neck.

Habitat: The Eurasian Collared-Dove is found in urban and suburban areas, feeding on seeds on the ground under feeders, on grain piles or near grain silos in rural areas, and in livestock yards where grain is available. It easily adapts to humans and can even be fairly easily trained to hand feed.

Behavior: Eurasian Collared-Doves roost on utility poles and wires, and tall trees in open areas near feeding sites. They feed on the ground, pecking at grains and seeds under feeders or in areas where grain has spilled from livestock feeders. Most birds I have seen will chase off other birds to claim the food for themselves, or maybe their mate. They are very vocal, with a loud coo-COO-cook call from a high perch, especially a male trying to attract a mate. It may go from dawn until after dark, and can be quite annoying to those who prefer the softer tones of a Mourning Dove.

Diet: These birds eat mainly cereal grains such as corn, millet, sunflower, milo, and wheat. They also eat some berries, the green parts of plants, and some invertebrates. They feed their newly-hatched chicks a fat and protein-rich “crop milk”, a white fluid of liquid-rich cells that slough off the lining of the crop, a portion of the esophagus.

Nesting: The male performs flight displays where he flies steeply upwards, clapping his wings, then glides downwards to the starting position. If she accepts, he then shows her potential nest sites while they vigorously preen each other in between sites. He brings sticks and other materials for the simple nest, sometimes shoving them under her as she sits on the nest. She lays 2 eggs and incubates during the day while the male takes over night incubation duties. Incubation lasts 14 to 18 days, followed by a period of 15 to 19 days before the chicks fledge. The monogamous pair raise up to four broods in a year, with the female laying a new clutch while young are still in a previous nest.

Migration Status: They do not migrate.

Conservation Status: Partners in Flight has estimated 5 percent of the approximately 8 million global breeding population lives in the U.S., so this bird is not in much danger. As an introduced species, they are not protected from hunting and have become a popular game bird in rural areas of the southeast and Texas.

Where to Find on the Harbor: They can be found in just about any low to mid-elevation habitat except for dense forest. Look for them on utility wires and on the ground feeding on seeds and grains, especially near feeders.


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