White-winged dove length is about 25–31 cm. It is also known as Mesquite Dove. A medium-sized, heavy-bodied, broad-winged dove with a slightly graduated tail and a striking broad white wing-bar. The bird is found in small flocks in open habitats, woodlands, and urban areas.
White-winged dove is usually, olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet. The outer rectrices are largely tipped white with blackish subterminal bars and grey bases. Thus, this is creating a distinctive pattern seen easily as birds scatter in flight. It has a bright cinnamon-rufous forehead and a greyish-brown crown with a narrow black stripe below the eye; hindneck and sides of neck glossed amethyst or golden-green, upper mantle washed light vinaceous. Thus, becoming olive-brown on the innermost wing-coverts, mantle, scapular , and tertials.
The back and rump are a dull bluish-grey grading to olive-brown central rectrices. All but the innermost wing-coverts are white giving a large white wing patch in flight and at rest. The flight feathers are beautifully blackish-brown with the secondaries and outer primaries narrowly edged white. The bird throat to belly is pale fawn-pink grading to pale blue-grey or whitish-grey on the belly and under tail-coverts. The female is duller fawn-brown below with reduced iridescence on the neck.
The sympatric Leptotila doves all have a distinctive squared-off tail pattern with white tips on the outer rectrices. They have plain-faced and are usually paler below without the black spots on scapulars, tertials, and greater wing-coverts.
Eurasian Collared-Dove “Streptopelia decaocto” was introduced to populations in the USA. These Streptopelia species are heavier-bodied with square-ended tails and lack the tertial, scapular, and wing-covert markings, also the facial stripe. S. decaocto has a distinctive white-edged black neck collar and is paler sandy-buff below and lighter brown above.
Mourning Dove “Zenaida macroura” occurs in the southern U.S.A., Central America, and the Caribbean. It is readily told by its lack of a broad white wing-bar in flight or when perched; long graduated tail makes it look slimmer and much less stocky.
Zenaida Dove Z. aurita (Yucatán Peninsula and the Greater Antilles on Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico plus the Bahamas) is similar in overall coloration but differs in generally richer. Almost rufous-pink underparts, black spots on scapulars, tertials and wing-coverts and lack of white outer wing-coverts; neck iridescence rather brighter in Z. a. zenaida.
Call / Voice / Sound
White-winged dove is a rather quicker, higher-pitched series of notes than Z. macroura: caa-coo-cuk ca-cooo, ca-cooo, caooo, caooo, caooo, the final notes more drawn-out and slurred. Alternatively, a wha-uk, cuk, ca-ooo repeated every 3–5 seconds may be given. The first three syllables are all delivered very close together and rapidly. The first syllable may start with a growling quality noise or simply an even-pitched coo.
A migratory species in the north of its range and a resident in the south. Northern populations of Z.a. mearnsi from western North America winter along the Pacific coastal plains and foothills from Sinaloa to Oaxaca. Northern populations of Z.a. asiatica from Texas and north-east Mexico winter on the Pacific slope from Honduras to Guanacaste in Costa Rica. The species is largely terrestrial and neither shy nor inconspicuous, being found alone, in pairs or in large flocks.
It feeds in leaf-litter in the undergrowth or in fields, parks, or urban areas, taking seeds, mast, and small fruits, including Echinochloa crusgalli, Digitaria, Lolium, and Phalaris. Northern populations take cultivated grains in late summers such as milo, redtop cane, barley, maize, wheat, and rice. A variety of wild plants such as Croton, Jatropha spathula, oak mast, sunflower seeds, cactus fruits, prickly poppy, nightshade, and desert willow is also taken.
The breeding season is variable across its large latitudinal range, with northern populations breeding in the spring and summer and those further south breeding throughout the year.
The nest is a very fragile platform of twigs sometimes lined with rootlets and built in a dense low shrub. In the west favorite trees include Carnegiea gigantea, ‘palo verde’ Olneya tesota, and Prosopis. In the east, it nests in ebony as well as Bumelia angustifolia and Celtis pallida. The form in the west is very much more a solitary nester; eastern nominate birds typically breed in huge colonies.
Nests are usually placed 3–8 m above the ground. Two creamy buff eggs are usually laid but sometimes two birds may lay in the same nest. Incubation lasts c.14 days and squabs fledge after 13–16 days; they may clamber out of the nest and engage in limited flight within 11 days of hatching and can fly some distance after 15 days.
In-display the male calls from a low perch or the ground throughout the day. In courtship he bows before the female, lowering his head, drooping and quivering his wings, and raising a fanned tail to reveal the tail pattern.
White-winged Dove occupies arid to semi-arid habitats, including open grasslands with scrub, scrubland, light woodland, and secondary growth, from sea-level and lowland areas locally up to 1,500 m. It also makes use of clearings, agricultural areas, parks, and gardens. In Panama, it is found in mangroves and adjacent farmland.
While further north from Costa Rica to Mexico it inhabits both mangroves and arid scrub with scattered columnar cacti and trees. It nests along the edges of swamps and marshes in mangrove or ‘palo verde’ trees while feeding in nearby agricultural areas. In Guatemala, it also penetrates more humid upland forests at 2000–2700 m.
Similarly, throughout the Caribbean, it is found in both coastal mangroves and upland forests. The black mangrove “Avicennia nitida” of drier habitats seems to be preferred in this region. In the southern U.S.A. and Mexico nominate birds are found in woodlands dominated by ebony Pithecellobium flexicaule mixed with leguminous trees.
However, much of this has been removed, and nowadays Prosopis and Acacia farnesiana scrub and woodland, often in association with citrus groves, are preferred. The race Z. a. mearnsi is found widely in Prosopis and Acacia scrub with cacti, ‘palo verde’ Cercidium and willow Chilopsis linearis.
In Arizona, it also occupies chaparral scrub and scrubs and woodlands with turbinella oak Quercus turbinella, and emory oak Q. emoryi. In the south-western desert, it is found in a habitat dominated by cacti and ‘palo verde’ with creosote bush Larrea tridentata, Prosopis, and saltbush Sarcobatus.
The migratory populations from the western portions of its range in Mexico and the U.S.A. It tends to occupy open desertic scrub in winter, dominated by Prosopis and Acacia together with columnar cacti. The eastern populations tend to winter in tropical scrub and mangroves south through Guatemala and Honduras to El Salvador.
Status and Distribution
Not threatened. However, in the U.S.A. up to 95% of its breeding habitat has been destroyed. It is still hunted in the U.S.A. where a strict imposition of hunting seasons together with habitat conservation has allowed populations to stabilize at about 530,000 birds. In Mexico, Central America, and throughout the Caribbean it is also hunted but remains common across much of this region, although unlike in the U.S.A.
it is not the subject of conservation programs. The form Z. a. mearnsi is found in the U.S.A. in southern Arizona and New Mexico southwards into Mexico on Baja California and to Guerrero and Puebla in the south-central regions of the country. Nominate asiatica ranges from the lower Rio Grande valley southwards to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and from there southwards through Central America to Costa Rica and Panama.
In Mexico, it is only absent from the humid south-east and is only found as a migrant in southern Veracruz and northern Oaxaca. In Guatemala, it is not found from the north, and in Honduras, it is absent from the north coast and eastern parts of the country. It is then found on the Pacific slope southwards into northwest Costa Rica where it is common. It is found south of Jaco and strays eastwards to San José.
In Panama, this bird is found around the Gulf of Parita in Herrera and Cocle. In the Caribbean, it is widely distributed in the Greater Antilles. It is found throughout the Bahamas where it is uncommon on the northern islands and in Cuba where it is commoner in the east. It is also found in Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. On the smaller islands, it is common on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, San Andres, and Providencia. Moreover, it is rare in the Virgin Islands and the other Cayman Islands and is a vagrant to Saba. The White-winged dove is extending its range eastwards through the Caribbean and is to be expected on the Lesser Antilles.
Adult male Forehead cinnamon-rufous grading to vinous bluish-grey on crown, nape, and hindneck. Hindneck, upper mantle, and sides of neck glossed vinaceous and amethyst, with limited golden-green on sides of the neck. However, lower mantle, scapulars, tertials, and inner wing-coverts olive-brown.
Greater wing-coverts (except innermost four or five) and outer median and lesser wing-coverts white, giving a broad white edge to the folded wing and a wing-bar in flight. Outer secondaries and primaries blackish-brown grading to greyish-brown on inner secondaries. Outer primaries
narrowly edged white on outer webs and secondaries tipped white, giving a white trailing edge in flight. Back, rump, and upper tail-coverts dull bluish-grey with a brown wash grading to olive-brown on inner rectrices. Tail only slightly graduated and broadly tipped white or greyish-white; outer feathers bluish-grey broadly tipped white with a narrow subterminal black bar. Chin and throat whitish buff, with a short black streak below the eye.
Face vinous-pink grading to pale fawn-pink on the breast with a vinous wash, then to pale grey on the belly and under tail-coverts. Undertail is blackish with broad white tips covering half the visible rectrices. Wing linings greyish-brown; underside of flight feathers dull brown. Iris reddish-brown or orangey-brown. Eye-ring broad, dull bluish-grey. Bill black. Legs and feet bright coral-red.
The adult female is generally duller brown above with much-reduced bloom to plumage in breeding plumage. Wings, back, and tail very similar to male but darker and duller brown. Head more uniform brown extending to mantle; neck has reduced iridescence.
Juvenile the bird is duller and darker brown overall with rather more greyish underparts. Scapulars, wing-coverts, and breast fringed buff-brown. No iridescence on hindneck. Eye-ring dull reddish-purple; feet and tarsi dull red.
Measurements Overall length, male 270–310 mm, female 250–295 mm; wing 155–167 mm; tail 76–82 mm; bill 18 mm; tarsus 32 mm. Weight 125–187 g.
Considered conspecific with West Peruvian Dove until very recently, and certainly very close to all species, best separated on vocal and morphological differences coupled with highly disjunct distributions. Formerly recognition was given to apparently darker birds from western Costa Rica and Panama under the name Z. a. australis, but there is much variation, and individuals may not always be distinguished clearly from the forms below. Two subspecies.
a. mearnsi Baja California, the southern U.S.A. in Arizona and New Mexico southwards into Guerrero and Puebla in Mexico; also found on Isla Tres Marias off the west coast of Mexico) Larger and paler with reduced vinous bloom on the underparts and mantle than nominate.
a. asiatica found in the southern U.S.A. in Rio Grande valley in Texas south along the Caribbean slope to isthmus of Tehuantepec from where it occurs on both slopes south-central America to Nicaragua; the Greater Antilles on Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico plus the Bahamas, San Andres and Providencia). Read More – Zebra Dove
Reference – David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes and John Cox “A guide to the pigeons and doves of the world”