I grew up with doves. Even as a youngster cutting my teeth down in Goldonna, hearing the soft cooing of mourning doves in June was as much a part of my life as walking out to the garden with a bucket to pick purple hull peas.
There was no dove season back then and hearing the gentle call of these timid gray birds was as natural as hearing the crisp whistle of a bobwhite quail along the back fence row.
It was not until the last couple of years that I discovered another type of dove that has taken a liking to north Louisiana. When I saw my first Eurasian collared dove flying across Highway 33 north of Ruston, I was curious. This bird didn’t look like a normal dove; it was too big, too light colored and had this black ring around its neck.
I called a friend who is a birding expert and he explained how collared doves are spreading across the south. Further research revealed that these birds now occupy most of the country from Arizona to New York. Eurasian collared doves are native of Europe, Asia and Africa. They were introduced to the U.S. around 1980 into Florida. My Kaufman field guide predicts they will eventually colonize much of the continent, living mostly in towns and suburbs.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries views collared doves as a non-native exotic species and since they are often mingled with mourning doves, there is no limit to the number of these birds that may be taken during dove season. In short, they seem to be an unwelcomed guest to our state. Flying feathered kudzu.
Although I have never seen a Eurasian collared dove in my yard around my feeders, I know it’s only a matter of time as I see them regularly a couple of miles away.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting on my back porch enjoying a cup of Community and reading the paper when I looked up to see a pair of doves on the ground beneath my feeder. Nothing was unusual about seeing doves feeding on the ground but something about these birds piqued my interest. They didn’t look like mourning doves.
My binoculars revealed that I was looking at a completely different bird. They were obviously doves but for sure they weren’t mourning doves.
I reached for my camera and snapped some photos. Searching my bird book, I found them but there was something that didn’t fit. These birds, the book identified as Inca doves, aren’t supposed to be anywhere near north Louisiana.
I sent my birding buddy from Arkansas a photo and he confirmed they were in fact Inca doves, birds that seem to be slowly spreading from the arid southwest where they’re common into more of the deep south.
The first thing you notice when you zoom in on them is that the edges of the feathers are dark in contrast to the remainder of each feather which are gray, giving the appearance of the birds being covered in scales.
They’re noticeably smaller than mourning doves but otherwise, have the same body shape.
Consulting Kaufman again, I found this description of the Inca dove…”A tame little dove of southwestern lawns; very common in some towns and cities, less common in wild habitats. Gentle and sociable; several will often roost huddled shoulder to shoulder. Small and long-tailed with a dark scaly pattern all over.”
I have heard reports from a few friends around north Louisiana who have seen these interesting little fellows recently so they are apparently moving this way.
I just hope they don’t intermingle with mourning doves during hunting season. It would be a shame to shoot one; in fact, if the game warden drives up, you could get a ticket.