Monday, March 1, 2010

Eurasian Collared-Doves: They’re Back

I didn’t think they were supposed to migrate, but I’d swear that the pair we had last year went away somewhere for the winter. I’ve posted on these birds before, by the way, in case you’re just tuning in. Look here for my previous posts on them.

Briefly, this species of dove was introduced into the Bahamas in the Bahamas in the seventies, made it to Florida, and has now made it as far as the Dakotas. They’ve been described as “the beige starling of the future.”

Like I said, they weren’t supposed to migrate, but the pair that lived in our area last summer were absent all winter. At least: we didn’t see them and didn’t hear them. We never saw them at our birdfeeders, even though mourning doves were there pretty much constantly.

I wonder if they didn’t have their nest in the old, dead Norway spruce that got cut down last summer. That happened about the same time they started getting scarce, and they had loved perching high in its (dead) branches.

Well anyway, we now have at least one of them in our neighborhood again. In the mornings, we have started to hear the distinctive, repeated huhHOO hoo as well as an occasional scratchy, nasal caaaawww as they swoop in for a landing somewhere.

Here’s a zoomed-in view from one of the pictures Sue snapped of them last summer.

You can tell them from a mourning dove, first, by their larger size and much paler (grayer) plumage, which strikes me as smoother-looking than a mourning dove’s. They have a black collar around the back of their neck. They have red eyes.

Last year, when they were in our yard for, I believe, the first time ever, we observed them pretty much bullying the smaller mourning doves. Both species feed on seed on the ground; the ECDs tended to land outside the feeding zone, then walk right over to the mourning doves who were eating, and they’d basically push them out of the way with their bodies. In response, the dismayed mourning doves tended to move away a few feet. Away from the area with the seeds.

This doesn’t bode well for mourning doves.

The other thing we observed is that the Eurasian collared-doves that we had were darned shy of people. They never stayed in the yard when we were out there. We mainly saw them from the house, or else glimpsed them as they swooped through the trees in our yard.

When they were in the yard while we were outside, too, they almost always positioned themselves on the opposite side of something. A tree, the birdbath, bushes. Outright hiding. Sue had a hard time trying to photograph them.

This is the opposite of what a lot of the references say; others generally describe ECDs as gregarious birds that don’t have much fear of humans. So maybe ours are on the vanguard of ECD “immigration” into our region, and maybe these individuals are more wary than the throngs that seem certain to follow.

Anyway, I don’t have a good idea about how many folks in our state are seeing them. Last summer, Sue and I heard some ECDs hooting at New Haven, Missouri, between the river and the buildings of downtown.

These birds have expanded their territory so quickly, many even slightly old field guides and bird books don’t list them. I guess a lot of people are seeing ECDs and wondering what the heck they are.

This is a case where it pays to keep buying the new editions of bird guides. I encourage you to check the copyright date of your field guide; I have the third edition of the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which came out in 1999, and though it includes the ECD, this edition is already out of date. It only shows them getting as far, perhaps, as southeastern Colorado . . .

No comments: