Photo Credit: 
Randy Mitchell

Getting back to columns concerning doves, this week I am featuring the white-winged dove.

In December, I wrote about the somewhat similar-looking Eurasian collared-dove.

I must say the first time I heard the name “white-winged dove” was in the 1981 Stevie Nicks song, "Edge of Seventeen." It was a popular song, and the lyrics would get stuck in one’s head.

 

———o———

 

“Just like the white winged dove

Sings a song, sounds like she's singing

Ooh, ooh, ooh

Just like the white-winged dove

Sings a song, sounds like she's singing

Ooh, baby, ooh

Said Ooh," Nicks crooned.

 

———o———

 

To this day, I don't know what the song is about. 

The first time I identified and photographed a white-winged dove was in 2006 at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

I was excited to see this bird, which I had only read about in books. As a kid, I knew this to be a bird of the American Southwest. 

I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time, but just seven or eight years later, they would be swarming my bird feeders here in Oklahoma. If I had, it may have taken away some of the mystique.

 

Habitat

 

Long ago, the white-winged dove was a bird of desert thickets, but it has expanded its range to the north and adapted to many different habitats — cities, suburbs, farmland, woodlands, etc.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports these doves often visit backyards, especially those with birdbaths and feeders. They visit my feeders.

 

Appearance

 

If you get a good look at this bird — while perched or in flight — there really is no mistaking it. Here’s why.

The white-winged dove is somewhat like the mourning dove and the Eurasian collared-dove, but only because of its coloring and the fact that it is a dove.

When it is perched, the white stripes at the edge of the folded wings are a dead giveaway. No other dove in the United States has these.

When it takes flight, the crescent-shaped white stripe is visible on the back of the wing and separates the brownish-colored inner wing and the nearly black outer wing.

The white-winged dove is pale brown overall.

It also has a square-tipped tail, which is shorter than the tails of either the mourning dove or the collared-dove.

Also, the mourning dove often has slight light blue rings that encircle its eyes, but the white-winged dove has a pronounced light blue coloring which extends from the back of its beak and around the eyes. It appears to be wearing too much eyeshadow.

It also has bright orange irises which surround its pupils.

Like the mourning dove, the white-winged dove also has a slight black streak on each cheek.

 

Diet and feeding habits

 

The white-winged dove eats mostly seeds and berries. They eat sunflower seeds, millet, milo, corn, safflower and others.

Like all doves and pigeons, white-winged doves eat seed whole. I must admit, the first time I witnessed this behavior, I was a bit surprised.

One dove was just scooping up seed one after another like a vacuum.

These birds store the seed in their crops, which is a muscular pouch that is an extension of its esophagus. It is used to store excess food prior to digestion. This allows birds to grab up food quickly, then fly to a safe spot to digest.

 

Range

 

This is where it gets tricky. I have no idea how far north the range of the white-winged dove extends.

Many bird organizations show its range as covering the majority of Mexico and extending into Arizona, New Mexico and most of Texas. One thing is for sure, they have extended their range northward. Even bird organizations do not know the full extent of the expansion. White-winged doves have been reported in Alaska and across Canada.

But I know one thing for certain; I have seen them in Oklahoma in every month of the year. And I recall one winter where 30 or more birds descended on my front lawn to gobble up seed. They were like a biker gang.

Also, the National Audubon Society, Tulsa chapter, listed 13 white-winged doves in the Tulsa area during the 2013 Christmas Bird Count.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports the bird’s expansion — and ability to adapt well to cities and suburbs — may be due to “backyard bird feeders, warm asphalt and concrete surfaces and artificial heat sources.”

The Cornell Lab reports individuals wander widely and irregularly across the continent after the breeding season ends.

 

Nesting

 

The Cornell Lab reports that in cities, white-winged doves choose large ornamental shade trees like pecan, live oak and ash in which to build a nest. Outside of cities and suburbs, they usually select the interior of dense woodlands, particularly along streams.

The female lays one to two eggs. Incubation time is two to three weeks, and young are ready to leave the nest about two to three weeks after hatching.

On an interesting note, doves feed newly hatched chicks something called “crop milk.” It is a protein- and fat-rich fluid that comes from the lining of the crop. It is created in the crop out of the food that the bird consumes. Some people call it pigeon milk.

After a week or so, chicks switch to a diet of regurgitated seeds or fruit.

 

Odds and ends

 

The Cornell Lab reports that white-winged doves often eat at elevated bird feeders. I can attest to this, as I had two at my elevated feeders recently. The white-winged doves and Eurasian collared-doves tolerate each other well, but there always seems to be a scuffle if they get within a foot or so of each other.

 

Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid birdwatcher, nature enthusiast and photographer for more than 40 years. Reach him at rnw@usa.com.