Minnesota Outdoors: Eurasian collared dove pops up on the prairie

Submitted by Dan Svedarsky
Crookston Times

    If in the last few years, you’ve noticed a slightly largely dove around, you’ve probably seen a relatively newcomer, the Eurasian Collared-Dove.  On April 6, I noticed what looked like a plump Mourning Dove at our rural residence 13 miles southeast of Crookston. I took a closer look and sure enough it was a collared dove. It was fairly tame, used to people I guess, and allowed me to get within 25 yards to photograph it. Although tough to compare without a photo of a Mourning Dove, Collared-Dove typically weigh 200 grams compared to 120 grams.

    According to Tom Feiro, long time compiler of the Crookston Christmas Bird count, “We reported our first ones on the Crookston Count in 2012. This was 2 birds spotted by MN DNR Wildlife Manager, Emily Hutchins near Carmen School.” Since that time, they are frequently observed on the Crookston count, notes Feiro; 2 in 2013, 6 in 2016, 16 in 2017, 2 in 2018, and 2 in 2019.

    Hutchins notes; “I was used to seeing them in southern MN.  They had become common in towns and at grain elevators.  Strangely, the day before we drove the moving truck north in August of 2012, I had a pair of them at my yard feeder.  It was the last species added to my yard list for our home there.

     Coincidentally, I had 3 of them turn up at my feeder here by Mentor about 2 weeks ago.  Now I get one as a daily visitor in the afternoon.  If I wasn’t required to be working from the kitchen table, I probably wouldn’t have a clue!

     As far as identification, collared doves are noticeably larger (but smaller than a pigeon) and lighter in color than mourning doves, with a squared tail.   The color is a pale, whitish-gray with a lot more white on the tail than a mourning dove; visible when the bird takes to the wing.  The lower pitched cooing is somewhat reminiscent of an owl to me.

     I don’t believe the collared doves will have an effect on our native mourning doves.  I’ve seen mourning doves chase the larger collared doves away from the seed that’s fallen beneath the feeders.  Competition for nesting sites is also not likely as collared doves also appear to be “building nesters” and frequenters like pigeons.”

     On the Bird Count, I usually spend most of my time counting birds in the countryside so haven’t spotted one since it tends to frequent urban areas/buildings more so than rural areas. I saw my first in Sorrento, Italy 3 years ago while dining at an outdoor restaurant with Mario and Jill Schisano. Collared doves are quite common in their native home of Europe and parts of Asia.

    According to the Minnesota Bird Atlas (https://mnbirdatlas.org/species/eurasian-collared-dove/), the collared dove “made its first appearance in the United States in Florida in 1986.”  Twelve years later, noted Minnesota birder, Kim Eckert observed the first one in Minnesota in the spring of 1998 in Big Stone County. During the next 2 years, reports came in from other southwestern counties, including Lyon, Martin, Mower, Pipestone, and Rock, as well as one record farther north, in Kandiyohi County. The first documented nesting report came in 2001 from a municipal park in the town of Caledonia in Houston County. That same year, 1 bird was reported as far north as Roseau County.

    As far as their U.S. presence, the Minnesota Bird Atlas reported, “a very detailed account was documented by P. William Smith in 1987. The original stock was acquired by a pet store owner in the Bahamas. Interested in acquiring Ringed Turtle-Doves, he instead received an allotment of Eurasian Collared-Doves, known in Europe as Indian Ring-necks. Unfortunately, in 1974, a few years after receiving his new acquisition, the Bahama breeder’s aviary was burglarized, and several doves escaped. The owner decided to simply release the remaining birds and abandon his original plans to establish a local breeding stock for his pet shop. The number of doves released is unknown but likely was less than 50.”

    Smith believed these released birds were the main source of the current North American population. Following their arrival in Florida, the dove’s range rapidly expanded across the United States and in just 15 years it was documented as far north as southern Alaska.     Dispersal to the northwest is characteristic of the species’ general movements. Although most of the expansion is presumed to have originated from wild birds dispersing northward from Florida, some caged birds also have been released in other localities.

    Retired from UMN Crookston, Svedarsky, Ph.D., CWB, is an Emeritus Research Biologist with the Northwest  Research and Outreach Center and is Past President of The Wildlife Society.

Note the dark wing tips or primaries; they’re lighter on Mourning Dove.
Note the partial neck ring on the back of the head. The tail is more squared off compared to the pointed tail of the Mourning Dove.