Which Bird might I see today? – WINTER
Even if you don’t feed birds in winter, you are probably familiar with the doves, which are here year-round. I won’t bore you with statistics about the feral Rock Dove or Pigeon, a very common urban species that everyone knows. Instead let’s take a closer look at our other two dove species, Mourning Dove and Eurasian Collared Dove and try to highlight the differences between them.
Mourning Doves are abundant, found all across southern Canada and throughout the US. More are seen in our valley during the summer months than in winter, as many migrate southward in search of food in harsh weather. These are long, plump, small-headed birds, varying in size from 9 – 13”/~23 – 34 cm. Birds are browner in the east and greyer in the west. The breast is a pale rosy grey, there are black spots on the wings and the tail is long and pointed, forming a white-edged fan when the bird flies. The song is a mournful hooting, hence the species name. Often non-birders think they are hearing an owl. Flight feathers produce an airy whistling sound when the birds fly past.
Mourning Doves breed in a wide variety of habitats, but do not frequent extensive forests preferring farmland, suburbia, small woodland lots, or creekside trees. Two eggs are laid on a flat, flimsy nest platform, occasionally on the ground, and two broods are raised each year. Pairs mate for life. Mourning Doves forage for seeds mainly on the ground, but will also visit platform feeders. They glean in grain fields after harvests are gathered.
They are becoming so common here that it is hard to realise that they were only introduced to south-eastern North America a matter of a few decades ago! As the species name indicates, they are native to Asia and Europe, spreading rapidly westwards there during the early twentieth century.
So next time you see a dove perched on your feeder or on the wires overhead, take a closer look. Is it a Mourning Dove or a Eurasian Collared Dove?