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Bird sightings: Eurasian collared-dove

Published November 15, 2010 9:34 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Streptopelia decaocto

The next time you see a dove at your bird feeder, take a closer look at it. Is it our native mourning dove or is it a new nonnative, imposter dove that is expanding its range into Utah? The invasive Eurasian collared-dove has shown up at the backyard feeder of Dixon Smith in Brigham City recently.

The Eurasian is not a native songbird to North America, but one that has been introduced. This is an alarming development. The Eurasian collared-dove is from Europe and it is rapidly colonizing North America. They were first seen in Florida in the 1980s. I saw my first in 2000 while leading a birding trip in south coastal Texas. They have now been seen in every county in Utah.

It is yet to be determined what impact they may have on the native common mourning dove. The Eurasian collared-dove is much larger and heavier than our mourning dove. The distinguishing field mark that separates it from the native dove is the black horseshoe shaped ring on the back of its neck that extends onto the sides of the neck.

The adult is pale gray-tan overall with a broad square tail with white edging underneath. The undersides of the outermost tail feathers are black at the base. The head and breast show a pinkish wash. When flying, it shows gray feathers in the wrist of the wing. The wings do not whistle in flight like the native dove. Primary feathers are dark brown. The bill is black and its eyes, legs and feet are red.

With its rapid expansion, it has found habitats within towns and suburbs. They are found in agricultural areas where grain is present. Wasatch Audubon members have counted flocks of these doves in Hooper and others in Morgan during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This dove is a ground feeder, like the native mourning dove.

Its song is a three-note "koo-KOO-kook." During display flights, it makes a growling call. Two eggs are laid in a shallow, loose assortment of twigs, roots and grasses in a tree. Young are fed a crop milk mixture of partially digested seeds and grain.

Bill Fenimore is owner of the Layton Wild Bird Center, http://www.wildbird.com/layton, author of Backyard Birds of Utah and a member of the Utah Wildlife Board.