Eurasian Collared Doves
A few mourning doves may stay in North Dakota during the winter, but not many. So, if you have noticed several doves this winter, you might want to take a closer look. They are probably Eurasian collared doves.
Eurasian collared doves are a little larger and lighter colored (“chalky light brown”) than mourning doves (“dark brown or buffy tan”), and have a black half-collar on the back of the neck. They also have a broad tail as opposed to the pointed tail of mourning doves, and broad white patches are generally noticeable when the birds are in flight.
Eurasian collared doves were historically native to India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, however, by the late 1900’s, probably with some human help, they expanded their range to include most of Europe. Then in the 1970’s several escaped from a pet shop in the Bahamas while others were reportedly released on the island of Guadeloupe. Some of these birds made it to Florida in 1982, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The species can now be found from Florida to Alaska, and there are probably a few in most every town in North Dakota. It is interesting to note that amateur birders have played a major role in documenting the spread of the species through activities such as the Christmas Bird Counts, Great Backyard Bird Counts, and project FeederWatch.
Eurasian collared doves are ecologically somewhere between a mourning dove and a pigeon. They seem to be largely a species of urban and suburban environments and avoid forested areas. In rural areas they are generally limited to farmsteads and around grain elevators where they can feed on spilled grain. They are also frequent visitors to bird feeders, and our habit of feeding the birds is thought to be a major contributing factor in their range expansion.
There are lots of questions about this species that need answering, and one of those questions scientists are working on is how they will impact mourning doves and other native birds. It is early and much research needs to be conducted, but a few traits are starting to emerge. There is some evidence that they are displacing some native dove species in California. The doves are also known to chase other birds away from feeding areas and bird feeders. The displaced species include cardinals, mourning doves, and blue jays, a widely regarded bully at bird feeders.
So if you see some mourning doves this winter, take a closer look at them if you can. They may well be Eurasian collared doves, and how they will change the avian landscape in our state is yet to be determined.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.