Illustration: Inca dove

Illustration by Donald L. Malick

Map

Map: Inca dove range

The conspicuously long-tailed, small dove is encountered in urban areas of the Southwest near the Mexican border. Monotypic. Length 8.3" (21 cm).

Identification A small gray dove with black fringes on the feathers of both the upper and underparts forming an obvious “scaled” appearance. In flight, shows chestnut on the upper and underside of the wing like common ground-dove; however, also shows prominent white edges on the long tail. Adult male: crown and face pale blue-gray and breast tinged lightly with pink; iris reddish; narrow eye ring blue-gray; bill blackish; and feet bright red. Adult female: similar, but duller on head and breast. Juvenile: duller with a slight brownish tinge overall, and “scaling” less noticeable.

Similar Species Its long tail provides a very different shape from that of the ground-dove, but beware of the Inca dove’s regrowing lost tail; it can be mistaken for a ground-dove, and the dark bill along with black on the underwing coverts could lead the unwary to identify such a bird as a ruddy ground-dove. The scaling of the upperparts is unique.

Voice Call: a long series of disyllabic kooo-poo that can be interpreted as “no hope.”

Status and Distribution Common resident across the southern U.S. from southern Nevada to western Louisiana; primarily around human habitation and in city parks. Terrestrial, feeding on the ground; fairly tame, and easily observed. Breeding: nest is a small fragile floor of twigs placed in a low bush or shrub; bears 2 white eggs; 2–3 broods each year. Migration: resident, but species expanding range northward, especially in the far west. Vagrant: casual to southern Utah, Nebraska, and Arkansas; also recorded in North Dakota and Ontario.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

Bird Features

  • Photo: A red bird with black wings on a branch

    Backyard Birding Central

    Want to learn more about our feathered friends of the sky? Visit our Backyard Birding site for facts, photos, videos, and more.

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

See More Bird Features »

Bird News

See More Animal News »

Birds A-Z

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

National Geographic Magazine

From the Magazine

  1. Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  2. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.