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Mourning Doves are one of the most abundant bird species on the continent, despite the fact that more than 20 million of them are hunted and harvested annually.
By the way, did you know it was named the ‘Mourning Dove’ on account of the sound it produces? The sound can best be described as a haunting cooing. But that’s not the only special thing about this species. In some communities, it’s considered a spiritual messenger of faith, love, and peace.
We’d love to discuss all the fun and fascinating facts about the Mourning Dove, but today’s post is all about birds that look like them. Read on below for 7 birds that can be mistaken for Mourning Doves.
Scientifically referred to as the Columbina Inca, this species is a one-of-a-kind New World dove. That means it didn’t originate from Australia, Africa, or Asia, but from Mexico, South and Central America. The feathers of the Inca are mostly light gray, with tips that have a darker shade of the same.
They are always in pairs or small flocks, foraging for grains, fruits, or seeds. We also learned that they hate the cold, and that’s why they often roost with other dove species. If that doesn’t help, they’ll adopt a more drastic measure that entails lowering their body temperature.
Inca Doves are loyal to their partners. They’ll mate for life and only look for a different spouse if the current one goes MIA. The courtship process is always intense, as it sometimes involves fighting among the males. The winner of that contest will ensure the female has everything she needs to build a comfortable nest, and also help incubate the eggs.
According to ornithologists, this species was introduced to Bahamians inadvertently, in the mid-70s. And just like any other species looking to survive, it quickly propagated and began occupying other regions. It first took over Florida, before spreading to all the Southeastern states.
In comparison to the Mourning Dove, it’s relatively larger and heavier. You’ll be able to spot a pinkish hue around the breast and on the head, but it mostly looks pale sandy gray. Their natural habitats are agricultural fields, seeing as they love feeding on grains more than anything.
When it comes to building the nest, the female will always seize the initiative. All the grasses, roots, twigs, and any other construction material required, will be supplied by the male. Their suitable nesting site has to be close to human habitation, where they can easily access food. And if the food is abundant in that area, you’ll find them in large concentrations.
What makes the White-winged Dove so special is that it can survive in virtually any environment. If you leave it in a desert, it will seek the much-needed moisture from the saguaro cactus fruit. And if there’s no fruit around, it will fly 25 miles or more, looking for a water source.
The other adaptation that we took note of was their migrating behavior. To reduce the risk of falling prey to various predators, they’ll travel in large numbers. And by “large” we mean you’ll often find more than 4,000 of them migrating to other regions, in search of suitable nesting sites.
The White-winged Dove prefers the desert habitat. Of course, they won’t complain if you house them in a habitat typically defined by green vegetation, but they feel most comfortable in deserts that have cholla cactus and large shrubs. Their diets primarily consist of organ-pipe fruit and seeds derived from agave, ocotillo, and willow trees.
It seems like the Rock Pigeon has lived several lives, seeing as it goes by so many English names. In the scientific realm, they know it as the Columba Livia. But out here, some people call it the domestic pigeon, others the feral pigeon, and then there’s us, who’ve always known it as the Rock Dove.
The Rock Dove used to be its official English name until the American Ornithologist Union and their British counterparts thought it wise to change the “dove” part to pigeon.
These birds are common in suburban and urban settings. They love building homes under railroad bridges, highways, and also around farms. If you’d wish to interact with them, just visit the park and don’t forget to carry with you a small sack of bird seeds.
Just like dogs, the Rock Pigeon is also man’s best friend! In the medieval ages, almost everyone owned one. They were trained to send messages to friends and foes, thanks to their incredible navigation abilities that enabled them to travel long distances—we’re talking about 600 miles and more.
We’ve also trained them to become “war pigeons,” so that they can be used to save human lives in times of conflict. And they have surpassed our expectations on more than one occasion, earning themselves medals such as the Dickin Medal and the Croix de Guerre.
It’s safe to assume that the Common Ground-Dove is the smallest dove species. The neck, head, and breast are all paler than what you’d expect from a typical dove, and the back is sandy-tan.
This particular species is common in the southeastern region of the US. Their natural habitats are the savannas, pinewoods, orchards, and weedy areas. They love hanging out in open but weedy areas to protect themselves from stalking predators. If they are not perched up on trees, they’ll be busy foraging for food on the ground.
While we’re still on the subject of food, you should know the Ground-Dove will find and occupy any logged, mowed, or burned area that has the potential to support the growth of weeds. That’s because they love weed seeds more than anything else. If they can’t find any, they’ll settle for milo, millet, or cracked corn.
The distinctive feature of the Band-tailed Pigeon is its purple-gray head. But what instantaneously reminds you it belongs to the pigeon family is the white crescent on its nape. Their bills are conspicuously yellow in color, and their eyes red.
Differentiating the males from the females is a tad bit difficult, but you can always try by zooming in on the color intensity. If the bird looks brightly colored, chances are you’re looking at a male Band-tailed Pigeon—the females tend to be duller.
Tailed Pigeons are widely spread along the west coast, and throughout Mexico. We’ve also had sightings in South America and southern Alaska. Though some ornithologists think they’ve recently moved there due to global warming and changes in climate.
If you’re looking to lure some to your backyard, serve them some grains, nuts, and fruits. That’s only if you can’t find their staples, the elderberries and wild grapes. They aren’t as picky eaters as some of their family members, as they’ll try out anything that looks plant-based.
Band Pigeons usually build nests on top of deciduous trees or one that’s coniferous. Needless to say, the male will provide the construction materials while the female works on the architectural plans and the actual building.
The White-tipped Dove doesn’t like flying very much. Of course, it will fly away if it senses danger, but if it feels safe, it will roam around the neighborhood, foraging for food. Speaking of, they mostly feed on grains and several other crops such as corn, wheat, and milo. For the sake of survival, they’ll also try different fruits and large seeds.
Their slow eating style and large bills make it easier for them to eat seeds that are too large for other birds. If they need calcium, they’ll go for bone fragments and snails. Vitamins will be provided by the plant materials, which are normally pulverized by the small stones they consume at times.
This species was named the “White-tipped“ dove because of the markings on its head and underpart. They are very visible, even from a distance. Practicing monogamy is not a problem for them, but only if it’s not for a lifetime. The dove loves spending time alone, so you’ll never find it in a flock.
Confusing these two birds is pretty easy, as this term is often used interchangeably. However, as per the information obtained from the American Dove Association, a pigeon should be relatively large. And even though we have more than 350 different dove and pigeon species in the wild, they rarely interbreed. If a dove and pigeon decide to breed, they are probably in captivity, and trying to survive.
Doves are almost like us. They’ll mourn their loved ones and even take care of them for a couple of days. We’ve even heard of reports of a grieving dove returning to the place where its mate died to pay its respects. But after a while, they’ll move on and try to find another mate.
We’d like to wrap this up by reminding you why it’s important to study these birds. They are incredible environmental indicators, as they act as nature’s sentinels. Without them, we would struggle to figure out what’s going on with our ecosystems or the environment. For example, if the population of one of these birds starts to decline, we’ll know something tragic is happening, and it has to be addressed before it wipes out the species.
Featured Image Credit: Ansel B, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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