Illustration by Jonathan Alderfer and N. John Schmitt
A fairly recent arrival to North America, this large pale dove can now be found across the United States. It flaps on broad wings, and often soars briefly, with wings extended slightly above horizontal as it seemingly floats down to a landing. Polytypic (2 ssp.; nominate in North America). Length 12.5" (32 cm).
Identification A large, pale gray-buff dove with a black collar, noticeably larger than the mourning dove. There is also a naturally occurring cream-colored variant, and this species is known to hybridize with the ringed turtle-dove, so plumage variation will occur. The tail is fairly long and blunt-ended. Adult male: the head is an unmarked, pale buff-gray, while the upperparts are a darker buff-brown, tinged gray; a conspicuous black collar can be seen on the hind neck. The primaries are noticeably darker than the rest of the wing, appearing blackish; the secondaries are gray and contrast with the blackish primaries and the brown wing coverts in flight. The undersides of the wings are pale. The underparts are a paler buff-gray merging into gray on the undertail coverts. A dark gray tail has obvious black at the base when seen from below; the black extends beyond the undertail coverts. This black includes the outer webs of the outer rectrices, and the tail has a broad, pale buff-gray terminal band. A reddish brown iris borders narrow grayish-white orbital skin. The blackish bill has gray at the base, and the feet are dull reddish. Adult female: similar. Juvenile: paler; buff fringes on feathers of the upperparts; black collar obscured or missing.
Similar Species The ringed turtle-dove is smaller, shorter-tailed, and noticeably paler; it has far less contrast between the flight feathers and the rest of the wing; undertail coverts are white with black at the base of the tail more restricted, and the outer webs of the outer rectrices white. In addition, the call is different.
Voice Call: a monotonous repeated, trisyllabic kuk-koooo-kook, slightly nasal, with the emphasis on the middle note; also a harsher kwurrr sometimes given in flight.
Status and Distribution A Eurasian species introduced to the Bahamas, which spread to Florida in the late 1970s. It was quickly established there, then spread westward in the 1990s, and it has now reached the Pacific coast. The population is anticipated to increase and spread northward into Canada. Its westward expansion follows a similar expansion from its original range in Asia all the way to the Atlantic coast of Europe. Breeding: nest is a flimsy construction of twigs placed in trees, particularly palm trees, but occasionally on manmade structures; normally 2 white eggs, occasionally more; 3 to 6 broods a year from the same nest. Migration: not a migrant in the true sense, in that individuals are not known to return to breeding or wintering grounds. But individuals move great distances, thus enabling the species to quickly expand its range across North America.
Population The 2004–2005 Audubon Christmas Bird Count showed dramatic evidence of the Eurasian collared-dove’s explosive expansion across the continent in a quarter century. The species was listed in 32 states and 4 Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario). Small numbers present in some areas may have escaped or been released from captivity by dove breeders, but most birds are thought to represent genuinely wild colonizers.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006
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