Plump of body with a small head and a long tail, the Eurasian collared dove originated in the greater India area. In the 16th century, it wandered to Turkey and the Balkans. Increased agriculture and the cultivation of grains in the 1900s saw a rapid spread of these doves through Europe and Asia. In 1970s, a burglary of a Bahaman pet shop caused the loss of some doves. The shop owner released the rest. By the early 1980s, Florida had Eurasian collared doves feeding in their small communities and at any grain elevators. California noted the birds in 1992. For a number of years, Southeast Alaskans have observed them. Event the birders at this year’s Yakutat Tern Festival observed these doves.
Morning and evening light gives the buff-colored birds a pink tint that seems to set off a nice dark collar on the nape of the neck. In flight and when perched, the wingtips are darker than the rest of the wing. The fanned tail has a white terminal band above and a two-toned band below. Their perch profile is horizontal including the squared tail.
The male’s call is an insistent “koo-KOO-kook” from a high perch. I heard this bird in Yakutat and thought it was an owl. In the daytime? Nope.
The chicks, for five to10 days after hatching, get their protein and fat from “crop milk.” This whitish fluid is made up of liquid-filled cells that line the adult bird’s crop and part of the esophagus. Later, the parents switch to feeding regurgitated seeds, insects and berries.
Most birds have to scoop up water, tip back their heads and let the water run down their throats. The Eurasian collared dove is able to put its bill to the water and suck up the water.
Starlings and house sparrows are immigrants to North America which have negatively impacted native birds. It remains to be seen what impact the Eurasian collared dove will have.
Seedy garden? They may winter near you.
• Patricia Wherry is the education chairperson for the Juneau Audubon Society. Contact her at education@juneau_audubon_society.org.