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8 Dove Species in North America (Pics and Facts in Details

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Feb 7th, 2024
a pair of dove - featured image

North America is home to a diverse range of bird species, and among them are several dove species that contribute to the region's rich avian diversity. 

Each species possesses unique characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors that make it fascinating for birdwatchers and ornithologists.

Let's delve into eight distinct types of doves in North America, exploring their identifying features, dietary preferences, breeding and nesting habits, and where to spot them on the continent.

North American Doves: A Comprehensive Guide to Species and Behavior

Although eight are the common species in this region, others visit occasionally. As such, you may spot more species in some states. One vagrant you may spot in Florida and Texas is the ruddy quail dove. Another rare visitor to North America is the key west quail-dove. 

Fortunately, many doves love backyard feeders because they eat seeds and grains. On top of that, many are foragers, so you don't have to search for them in canopies as they'll be on the ground. 

With the detailed descriptions below, you'll know how to differentiate the ones you spot in the wild or at your feeder.

1. Mourning Dove

Image by edbo23 from Pixabay

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is an iconic and widespread species in this region. It is known for its gentle cooing call and subtle, graceful appearance. You must have seen it several times in your neighborhood, as there are millions of mourning doves in the U.S.

Identifying Characteristics

Mourning doves are medium-sized birds, measuring approximately 9-13 inches, with a wingspan of about 17-18 inches. Unlike the colorful rock pigeons, mourning doves have a soft gray-brown body. Except for the black spots, its plumage resembles a brown cuckoo dove.

Another distinguishing feature of the mourning dove is its long, pointed tail, which tapers to a fine point. These tails are longer than those of rock pigeons.

Diet

Mourning doves are granivorous, with their diet consisting predominantly of seeds. These include seeds from crops such as sunflower, corn, wheat, and millet.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Mourning doves are prolific breeders. As such, their breeding season extends from spring through summer. They build simple nests with twigs, grasses, and other plant materials. When it's ready, the female lays two white eggs per clutch, and both parents share the incubation and chick-rearing duties.

Throughout the season, mourning doves can produce multiple broods, taking advantage of the availability of food resources.

Where to See Them in North America

Mourning doves are remarkably adaptable. Hence, their range extends from southern Canada to Mexico, covering most of the continental United States. You'll likely see a mourning dove in your neighborhood, perched on telephone wires or feeding on the ground.

Mourning doves are particularly attracted to areas where food sources are abundant. Hence, you don't have to leave home to see this species. These doves love bird feeders, where they readily consume sunflower seeds and other grains. 

Further, you'll likely see a mourning dove in your neighborhood, perched on telephone wires or feeding on the ground.

2. Inca Dove

Image by AvinaCeleste from Pixabay

The Inca dove (Columbina inca) is a charming and distinctive species in North America, particularly in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico.

Identifying Characteristics

This small to medium-sized dove measures approximately 6-7 inches in length. The identifying characteristics of the Inca dove include a light gray body with a scaly appearance. This scaly appearance is due to the intricate pattern of dark feather edges that gives it a distinctive, textured appearance, like a brown cuckoo dove. 

Additionally, the Inca dove has a cinnamon-colored patch on its wings, adding to its striking appearance.

Diet

An Inca dove has a granivorous diet like a mourning dove. Therefore, it feeds on seeds and grains. However, you may see it foraging on the ground, pecking at seeds and insects with its small, pointed bill.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Inca doves have melodious cooing calls frequently heard during the mating season. Their nests are simple and constructed with twigs, grasses, and other plant materials. 

They built them in trees, shrubs, or even cacti, providing some protection from potential predators. Inca doves lay two eggs per clutch, and they may produce multiple broods to maintain their populations in arid and semi-arid environments.

Where to See Inca Doves

In North America, Inca doves live in the southwestern United States, including states like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and southern California. They adapt to human presence in urban and suburban areas within their range. As such, they inhabit parks, gardens, and residential neighborhoods.

3. White-winged Dove

Image by Ray Shrewsberry from Pixabay

The White-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is a medium-sized species native to North and Central America.

Identifying Characteristics

White-winged doves have pale grayish-brown bodies, slightly larger and more robust than other species. Their most distinctive feature is the prominent white band or patch on their wings, easily visible in flight.

These white wing markings give them their common name, and they stand out beautifully against the muted tones of their plumage. Additionally, they have bright red eyes encircled by a thin, bright blue eye ring. They have somewhat pale underparts like Key West quail doves.

Diet

White-winged doves have a varied diet. It consists of seeds, fruits, and nectar. They often forage in fruiting trees, plucking and eating ripe fruits like berries and figs. On top of that, they visit bird feeders to enjoy seeds like millet and sunflower seeds. You can add it to the list of grayish-brown avians to attract to your backyard.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

White-winged doves typically breed from late spring to early summer. They build their nests in trees or shrubs, often selecting relatively low branches. This bird's clutch has one or two white eggs. The mating pair incubates the eggs and cares for the hatchlings together. In some cases, white-winged doves may raise multiple broods.

Where to See Them in North America

White-winged doves live in the southwestern United States, and their range extends to Mexico and Central America. Their preferred habitats include desert areas, woodlands, urban and suburban regions, and areas near water sources. 

During migration, they may venture further north. However, their presence is most common in their core range.

4. Ruddy Ground-Dove

Image by Edgard Goncalves from Pixabay

The ruddy ground dove (Columbina talpacoti), a petite and charming bird, is one of the lesser-known doves in North America. These doves love open habitats and agricultural areas, meaning you may spot them on farms if you live in the countryside.

Identifying Characteristics

The ruddy ground dove exhibits a compact build, measuring six to seven inches long. Its plumage is a striking ruddy-brown, not as bold as a brown cuckoo dove. One distinctive feature of this species is the prominent blue eye-ring that circles the eyes, adding a touch of elegance to its appearance.

Diet

The ruddy ground dove loves seeds and grains. However, it's an opportunistic feeder that consumes small invertebrates when available. You may see it pecking at seeds on the ground, making the most of its terrestrial foraging habits.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Ruddy ground doves construct nests in trees or shrubs using a combination of twigs and grasses. Interestingly, they may sometimes reuse abandoned nests built by other birds.

Where to See Them

Watch out for these delightful ground doves in southern Florida, Texas, or the southwestern United States.

5. White-tipped Dove

Image by Francesco Veronesi from Wikipedia

The white-tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi) is a medium-sized bird known for its distinctive appearance and habits.

Identifying Characteristics

It measures between 10 and 12 inches long and has a pale gray or bluish-gray body. Unlike other dove species, it has a noticeable white patch on the tips of its tail feathers. Additionally, white-tipped doves display a pinkish hue on their underparts.

Diet

White-tipped doves feed on a diverse diet of seeds, fruits, and insects. They love fallen fruits, which they often forage for on the ground. These doves also visit bird feeders, where they can consume seeds, adding to their dietary variety.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

They engage in breeding activities throughout the year, with regional variations. White-tipped doves construct simple nests from twigs, grasses, and other plant materials. 

They choose nesting sites in trees and shrubs, sometimes even utilizing abandoned nests of other birds. A typical clutch consists of two eggs, and they may raise multiple broods during their breeding season.

Where to See Them in North America

White-tipped doves are in the southernmost regions of the United States, particularly in states such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. 

They prefer a variety of habitats, making them adaptable to different environments. You can often find them in desert regions, arid scrublands, woodlands, and urban areas. Their penchant for visiting bird feeders in residential neighborhoods makes them accessible for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers in these regions.

6. Spotted Dove

Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

The spotted dove (Spilopelia chinensis) inhabits parts of North America, specifically in southern Florida, although it's native to south and southeast Asia.

Identifying Characteristics

The spotted dove is 9 to 10 inches long. Its most prominent characteristic is its soft, pale gray-brown plumage, which gives it a gentle and understated appearance. Further, small, dark spots set it apart from other doves, like the brown cuckoo dove.

Diet

It feeds on seeds, grains, and small insects. You may spot it foraging on the ground. Watch out for lone birds or small flocks looking for fallen seeds in your backyard.

Breeding and Nesting

Spotted doves build their nests in trees, shrubs, or even on ledges of human structures. The nests are relatively simple, constructed using twigs and grasses, and often appear flimsy. These doves lay two eggs per clutch during their breeding season, which can vary depending on the region. They may raise multiple broods in a year when conditions are favorable.

Where to See Them in North America

Spotted doves are visiting birds in North America but have established small populations in southern Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area. On top of that, there are sightings in other parts of Florida. 

Spotted doves thrive in urban and suburban areas, making them a common sight in residential neighborhoods, parks, and gardens.

7. Eurasian-collared Dove

Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

The Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is a common sight in North America, particularly in the southern and western regions of the United States. Native to Eurasia, these doves were introduced to North America in the 1980s and have since established thriving populations.

Identifying Characteristics

A Eurasian collared dove measures 12 to 14 inches long, about the same size as a rock pigeon, and exhibits a pale grayish-brown plumage. One of their most notable features is a distinctive black collar or crescent-shaped line on the nape. Additionally, Eurasian collared doves have red eyes and bright pinkish-orange legs.

Diet

These doves feed on seeds and grains. They're fond of seeds from grasses, grains, and garden plants. Further, they eat small fruits and sometimes insects, making their diet relatively adaptable.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Eurasian collared doves are prolific breeders. They often initiate their breeding season when food and suitable nesting sites are available. These doves can produce multiple broods in a single year, especially in regions with mild climates.

Their nests are relatively simple and located in trees, shrubs, or even human structures such as buildings and utility poles. Nests are composed of twigs, grasses, and other plant materials. 

A typical clutch contains two eggs. The male and female birds incubate the eggs together for about two weeks. After hatching, the parents take care of the doves until they fledge.

Where to See Them in North America

Eurasian collared doves have rapidly expanded their range across North America since their introduction to this continent. You may see them in the southern and western United States, including Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida. 

However, they're also in parts of the Midwest and eastern regions. These doves have adapted well to urban and rural environments like gardens, parks, and farmlands. Their distinctive cooing calls and large, conspicuous populations make Eurasian collared doves easy to spot. They often perch on utility wires, rooftops, and tree branches.

8. Common-ground Dove

Image by MarshBunny from Wikipedia

The common ground dove (Columbina passerina) is a small and unassuming species. 

Despite its diminutive size, this bird exhibits distinct characteristics and behaviors that make it a unique addition to North America's avian diversity.

Identifying Characteristics

Common ground doves are petite birds, measuring approximately 6 to 7 inches long. They have a delicate appearance with a tan-gray body that often takes on a pinkish hue on their chest. 

One of the most prominent identifying features of the common ground dove is its scaled appearance, caused by fine black barring on its wings and back. Additionally, it possesses red-orange eyes and a relatively short tail.

Diet

These doves eat seeds and grains and love foraging on the ground. Occasionally, they consume small insects and invertebrates.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

Common ground doves have a unique breeding pattern because they can breed throughout the year in their southern range. Their nests are relatively simple and constructed in low shrubs or trees. The female dove lays one or two eggs per clutch, and both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Where to See Them in North America

Common ground doves are across the southern regions of the United States, in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona. These doves like open habitats, including grasslands, scrublands, and agricultural areas. 

Their preference for open spaces and tendency to forage on the ground make them relatively accessible to birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts in these regions.

Conclusion

North America boasts a remarkable diversity of dove species, each with unique characteristics, behaviors, and habitat preferences. From the small and unassuming common ground dove to the elegant white-winged dove, there's always a new species to see when you go birding. 

Whether you're a dedicated birdwatcher or enjoy the beauty of nature, exploring the world of doves in North America can be a rewarding experience. 

So, grab your binoculars and field guide, and start your journey to discover these delightful doves in their natural habitats. You might find a few mourning doves in your backyard to get you started.

FAQs

What is the most common dove in North America?

The most popular dove in North America is the mourning dove. You'll know it by its soft-gray plumage with black spots and pinkish legs.

How many types of doves are there in North America?

There are eight dove species in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to the mourning dove, North America is home to other dove species, including the white-winged dove, Inca dove, and common ground dove.

What's the difference between a dove and a pigeon?

Doves and pigeons belong to the same family of birds, but they're distinct species with some key differences. Doves are smaller and have a sleeker appearance, while pigeons are larger and often have a bulkier build. 

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