About three years ago we began to get calls from people in the Owens Valley who recognized that they had a bird species in their yard that they had never seen before. One even began the conversation with, “I have not been drinking but I have a bird at my feeder that Ive never seen before and it isnt in my bird book!” Some were able to imitate the vocalization it made: “coo-COO-coo.” They were all thrilled that they could believe what they were seeing because they were playing host a new colonist in Inyo County, the Eurasian Collared-Dove. The name itself awakens an interest because birds with “Eurasian” are found in Eurasia, not in North America!

This Eurasian species was imported to the Bahamas in the mid-1970s. It is not certain if the birds escaped or were released but they became common in the wild there. In the early 1980s they were first reported in Florida where they quickly adapted to their new home. A decade later the population had expanded rapidly both north and west and the new century found them in the Far West. By 2002 this species had been added to the state lists of Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. The 2002 report of the California Bird Records Committee (Western Birds 35:14) accepted this species on the state list, which now stands at 620 species, noting that it is the 10th non-native species added to the list.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove was officially added to the Inyo County list when Debby Parker thoroughly documented and photographed a bird in Bishop on 8 March 2002. Since that time this species has been reported from all the towns in the Owens Valley as well as Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley National Park. A few others had been reported earlier in Bishop but lacked documentation or photographic evidence. There is a look-alike domesticated dove, the Ringed Turtle-Dove, that is kept in cages in Bishop and the earlier sightings did not eliminate the possibility of an escaped turtle-dove. A recent edition of the Sierra Reader offered turtle-doves for sale.

How can we be sure we are looking at Eurasian Collared-Dove and not an escaped Ringed Turtle-Dove? The newer field guides, National Geographic Societys Field Guide or Sibleys Guide to Birds, have pictures that will be helpful. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is the size of a Rock Pigeon (Rock Dove) that is common in most towns. It is pale gray with a black half-collar around the back of the neck. The back, wings, and tail are mostly pale brown; the primaries (the longest, outer wing feathers) are black as is the base of the underside of the tail. The outer tail feathers are broadly tipped white. The Ringed Turtle-Dove is a smaller and paler version with the primaries dull gray and the base of the undertail has very little or no black. The main vocalizations are very different. The Eurasian Collared-Dove gives a series of 3 to 4 “coo” notes with the middle one(s) emphasized. The Ringed Turtle-Dove gives a soft, rolling series of “coos.”

While some people disdain non-native species these birds have become part of the avifauna and should not be ignored. It is important that we learn as much as we can about them. Will they withstand our hardest winters? Can they survive an abundance of winter hawks that love to eat dove? How high into the mountains will they venture? Will they displace our native doves or pigeons? Where will they nest? Will they brave the temperatures of Mammoth Lakes? Will their choice of food items impact other species of birds? How regularly will they hybridize with turtle-doves? If there are many of their own species to mate with, will they hybridize? The slate is almost blank on the Inyo County biology of this newcomer. What interesting facts are you going to discover?

Photo Debby Parker

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Focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats.