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Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto
Plump birds with dense plumage, pigeons and doves have small heads and short legs. They are predominantly buff or gray, but many species have colorful accents on the neck, head or breast. These accents are often somewhat more prominent in males, but sexes are generally similar. This order has a single family:
Most of the members of this group live in tropical or semi-tropical parts of the world. The term "pigeon" refers to the larger and "dove" to the smaller species in this group, although this usage is not consistent. Most pigeons and doves have plump bodies and soft plumage. The Washington members of this group are drab, but some have iridescent patches. Pigeons and doves are all strong fliers. One unique trait of this family is the ability to drink without tipping the head back, something no other bird can do. Pigeons and doves feed on seeds and fruits. Unlike many granivorous birds that switch to a diet of insects when raising young, pigeons have a unique system for feeding their young. Both males and females produce in their crops a protein- and fat-rich liquid called "pigeon milk," which they feed to their young. Most pigeons and doves lay clutches of one or two eggs.

    General Description

    A recent arrival in Washington, this exotic invader is increasing explosively and is certainly here to stay. It adapts especially well to agricultural and suburban landscapes but might be found in just about any low- or mid-elevation habitat except for closed forest and dense urban development. Native to South Asia, it has also been established for centuries in the Middle East, Turkey, and northern China, where it was likely introduced. Beginning in the 1930s, it rapidly expanded its range northward and westward from the Balkans across Europe and is now a common resident from Japan and Burma to Portugal and the Faeroes.

    Several birds were released from captivity in the Bahamas in 1974, and flourished; their offspring soon reached Florida where the population mushroomed. From this beachhead Eurasian Collared-Doves swept across the continent in the 1990s. The first Oregon record occurred on 21 December 1999 at Oregon City, and the first Washington record (not yet reviewed by the Washington Bird Records Committee) was on 2 January 2000 at Spokane (Spokane County). The second state record occurred at Wenatchee (Chelan County) in 2002; the third, in 2003 at Stanwood (Snohomish County), was also the first state record west of the Cascades. The leading edge of the main wave arrived in May 2005. Since then more than 200 birds have been reported from many locations in both eastern and western Washington, including evidence of breeding.

    The Eurasian Collared-Dove is overall pale grayish with warmer light-brown tones on the back, and has on the nape a black collar narrowly edged with white. It is larger, less slender, and grayer in color than the Mourning Dove, which lacks the black collar. The blunt-tipped tail is fan-shaped when spread, unlike the Mourning Dove’s much longer, pointed tail. African Collared-Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea)—an escaped cage bird occasionally seen in Washington, formerly known as Ringed Turtle-Dove (S. risoria)—is rather similar to the Eurasian Collared-Dove but smaller and lighter in color (can be almost white). Consult field guides for the finer points of separating these two closely related species.

    Revised July 2007

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