What’s a guy to do when my hunting seasons are over and it’s -5°F outside?
It’s in that short period where the ice is not yet thick enough for ice fishing and when it’s this cold, it’s hard to keep the rod guides free of ice for fly fishing.
Since it snowed last night, it might be a good day to stay home and trap Eurasian Collared-Doves.
As their name implies, Eurasian Collared-doves (Streptopelia decaocto) are native to Europe and Asia. These invasive, non-native birds were established in the Bahamas in the 1970s when about 50 birds either escaped or were released during a robbery.
By the 1980s, they made the jump to Florida. It is unclear how they did it, but they could have made the trip on their own, or they could have blown to shore during a hurricane or there could have been other escapes or releases. Either way, they have been expanding across North America ever since.
Collared Doves Have Invaded North America
I found records that indicate collared doves had reached Texas, Colorado & New Mexico in 1995. They expanded into Utah and Montana in 1997 and into Oregon & Wyoming in 1998. They reached Arizona in 2000 and California in 2001, but didn’t expand into Idaho until 2005.
How did they jump Idaho and get to Oregon seven years earlier? Perhaps they came through California or there are earlier records for Idaho I didn’t find.
I first noticed collared doves in my town in the Inter-mountain West in 2005, but now, they are one of the most common birds in the area.
I found range data from several sources (mainly Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird.org and many online articles) to create the maps in Figure 2. The figure shows the range of Eurasian Collared-Doves (EUCD) in 2000 and the beginning of 2015.
Are Collared Doves Displacing Native Doves?
We don’t know yet how much native doves compete with collared doves for food or nesting habitat, but with their population and range expanding so rapidly, we must assume they are competing with the native doves (Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove and Common Ground Doves) for food and perhaps nesting habitat, because every seed that is eaten by a collared dove is not available for any other dove, bird or animal.
Related to the Magician’s Doves
If you have not noticed collared doves in the wild, you are probably familiar with a close relative as the magician’s bird, birds released during weddings and in movies or as pets. These are domestic versions of the African Collared-dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea), often called “ring doves”, “turtle doves” or “ringed-turtle doves”.
Unprotected? or No Bag Limit and No Closed Season
Collared doves are non-native and therefore are not protected by by state or federal law. Let me rephrase that. My state (and probably yours as well) has never relinquished authority over “unprotected” birds like collared doves, pigeons, house sparrows or starlings, but currently in my state, there are no closed seasons, bag limits and no hunting license is required.
When I worked for my State’s Division of Wildlife, among other things, I trapped and banded birds, so I am a professional bird trapper and know dozens of ways to passively and actively trap all kinds of birds. I hesitate to give too much information about trapping, because there are always a few people that will accidentally trap, injure and stress protected birds. So, I do not tell people I can’t supervise how to trap birds. But anyone with an IQ close to body temperature should be able to figure out how to catch birds that regularly come to a food source.
Learn to Identify the Various Dove Species
If you plan on trapping collared doves, just make sure you are trapping the correct doves. It is illegal to trap native doves, any native birds or game birds that includes all quail, grouse and pheasants. I recommend using an active trapping technique instead of a passive method, so no birds are not accidentally trapped. By active method, I mean you must actually do something, like pull a string to catch the birds.
It should go without saying that you should be able to identify the correct birds to trap, but I have watched Mourning Dove hunters shoot Killdeer and American Kestrels, so we know there will always be room for improvement and many people will benefit from more education. It should be easier to identify doves before you trap them than when shooting at them, because they should be standing still at close range.
Everyone in Southern Canada, the U.S and Mexico need to know how to properly identify collared doves because everyone in these areas have some kind of native doves. Table 1 shows the range and key characters for the most common doves and pigeons found in North America.
Table 1. North American Dove & Pigeon Identification Chart
|Eurasian Collared -Dove||Mourning Dove||White-winged Dove||Inca Dove||Common Ground-Dove||Band-tailed Pigeon||Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)|
|Range||S Can, US & Mex||S Can, US & Mex||SC & SW US & Mex||SC & SW US & Mex||SE, SC & SW US & Mex||B.C, SW & NW US & Mex||S Can, US & Mex|
|Color||Tan or gray||Brown to buffy tan||Brown||Light brown||Sandy brown||Blue-gray above & purple-gray below||Variable, but most blue-gray|
|Wing||No marks||Black spots above||White stripe on edge||Rufous in wing when flying||Bright rufous under & Iridescent spots above||Pale gray w dark tips||Most w dark bands|
|Tail||Square w white patches||Long & pointed, white tips w black borders||Square, no white||Square, no white||Short & square, no white||Pale gray band||Short & square w dark tip|
|Special||Black collar on neck||Black spot on cheek||Dark line on cheek||Scaly pattern on body||Scaly pattern on head||White crescent on neck, Yellow bill & feet||White cere at base of dark bill|
The table includes Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica), Inca Dove (Columbina inca), Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina), Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) and the Common Rock Pigeon (Columba livia -AKA feral pigeon).
Mourning Doves and Rock Doves are the most common and are found almost everywhere from Southern Canada, the U.S. and in Mexico. Common Ground-Doves are found in the Southern U.S. (South-west, South-central & South-east) and in Mexico. Both the White-winged and Inca Doves are found in the South-central and South-west U.S. and Mexico. Band-tailed Pigeons are found from British Columbia down the West Coast into Mexico and the South-west U.S.
Be aware there are two more species that are found only in the extreme southern tip of Texas, Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris) and White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi) that are not included in the table (links open photos in new window).
Summary of North American Dove & Pigeon Identification:
- Collared Doves are the only doves with a black collar and no marks on the wings.
- Mourning Doves have a black spot on their cheek and on the upper side of the wings.
- White-winged Doves have a dark line on their cheek and a white border on the wings.
- Inca Doves have a scaly pattern over their entire body and show a rufous color in the wing when flying.
- Common Ground-Doves have a scaly pattern on just their head and have bright rufous color under the wing.
- Band-tailed Pigeons have a white crescent on a blue-gray neck and a yellow bill and feet.
- Feral Pigeons can come in many colors, but they have a white cere (fleshy patch at base of upper bill) and a dark bill.
We don’t know yet how collared doves will affect native doves and other birds, but with their exponential growth, the rules have changed. I never see Mourning Doves at my feeder anymore, but have as many as 30 collared doves around the yard at any given time. Collared doves are plentiful, easy to catch and delicious and removing collared doves from the wild has to help our native doves.
I prefer eating doves that are trapped instead of shot because no bloody spots in the meat or bird shot to pick out or to break my teeth. Plus, most of us can trap in our back yards even if we can’t discharge firearms.
The local raptors appear to have adjusted to the new players in the game and we have watched both Cooper’s Hawks and female Sharp-shinned hawks catch and eat collared doves. The hawks may eat more doves than me, but only because they get to do it full time.
I though I had pictures of collared dove breasts before and after I filleted them and after my wife grilled them. But sadly, I do not and the evidence has been eaten.
Try this recipe for Dove:
Check back for pictures and for more of our favorite dove recipes.