Eurasian Collared Dove: Have You Seen This Bird?

Eurasian collared dove. Photo: lruka under a Creative Commons license

Eurasian collared dove. Photo: lruka under a Creative Commons license

By Matt Miller, senior science writer

The Great Backyard Bird Count  (GBBC) — one of the largest citizen science initiatives in the world – annually documents a wide variety of bird population trends.

To my mind, one of the most interesting has been the dramatic spread of the non-native Eurasian collared dove across North America.

The GBBC asks citizen birders to watch an area for at least twenty minutes sometime during a four-day period in mid-February (this year’s count concluded yesterday), and record the birds they see.

Just ten years ago, seeing a Eurasian collared dove would have been a novelty. No more: the doves are now commonly reported by birders in most of the United States.

GBBC data tell the story of this rapid spread.

In the 1970s, the Eurasian collared dove was introduced to the Bahamas. By the early 1980s, the non-native birds made their way to South Florida, where they established populations. Then they began spreading north and west.

Their range appears to have expanded slowly at first. A look at GBBC reports from 1998 show a lot of sightings in Florida, with some birds reported in Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

By 2001, the doves reached California.

Last year’s bird count results showed the Eurasian collared dove had colonized much of the country. It has not (yet) been reported in New England, but it has reached as far north as Alaska.

The GBBC’s video map dramatically illustrates this expansion.

In my state of Idaho, the doves were first recorded in 2005 by two backyard birders. In subsequent years, the bird was commonly reported in Idaho’s eastern corners. Last year, 132 GBBC participants reported 719 doves throughout the state.

I saw my first Eurasian collared dove in our backyard in 2008 – a banded bird that may have been an escaped pet. Last year, I began seeing the doves hanging around our neighborhood. This year was the first that I noted the species during my own participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

What’s going on here? Should conservationists be concerned about this spread?

Unlike some dove species, Eurasian collared doves aren’t migratory. However, they do readily expand into new suitable habitat. In fact, in their native Asia, Eurasian collared doves have been rapidly expanding their range as well – colonizing new countries every year.

The dove is one of those species that adapts well to humanity. The trees, power lines and bird feeders of suburbia provide perfect habitat. The Eurasian collared dove is almost always seen near homes and farms, not unbroken forest or prairie.

Research indicates it is not adversely affecting native mourning doves or other birds. It may simply be filling a new habitat niche created by suburban habitat. But it is still early in the spread.

Could Eurasian collared doves become an invasive threat? That remains to be seen.

Citizen science projects like the GBBC and another citizen initiative, Project FeederWatch, will help scientists continue to track the spread and impacts of the species. It will be interesting to learn what this year’s count found about Eurasian collared doves. If past years are any indication, their populations will likely have grown and spread into new areas of the country.

Have you seen Eurasian collared doves in your area? Have you noted other trends during your backyard bird counts? Let us know what you’re seeing!

Eurasian collared doves. Photo: Flickr user Horia Varlan under a Creative Commons license

Eurasian collared doves. Photo: Flickr user Horia Varlan under a Creative Commons license

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
Matt Miller is a senior science writer for the Conservancy. He writes features and blogs about the conservation research being conducted by the Conservancy’s 550 scientists. Matt previously worked for nearly 11 years as director of communications for the Conservancy’s Idaho program. He has served on the national board of directors of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and has published widely on conservation, nature and outdoor sports. He has held two Coda fellowships, assisting conservation programs in Colombia and Micronesia. An avid naturalist and outdoorsman, Matt has traveled the world in search of wildlife and stories.

Comments: Eurasian Collared Dove: Have You Seen This Bird?

  •  Comment from roger glave

    I have had as many as 30 at my feeders during the last snow fall!!

  •  Comment from Schnauzermom

    I’ve got probably 2 dozen of the damned things that visit my yard now. They’ve pushed out all the mourning doves I used to have coming to feed on the ground under my feeders. I hate them.

  •  Comment from emily

    I remember seeing them in Pheonix several years back

  •  Comment from Karen Yancey

    I have these doves feeding in my yard and feeders here in Springfield, Missouri.

  •  Comment from Sue Sell

    Have not seen them in Colts Neck, NJ (monmouth County)
    where have the others seen them?

  •  Comment from Jay Bea

    saw a pair in our yard, trees, feeder lately – especially when it was really cold (Denver). Hope they don’t displace the doves that arrive later!

  •  Comment from Sheri Havens

    I first noticed them in Venice Florida back in the 90′s. Now they are one of the most common birds in the neighborhood.

  •  Comment from Catherine

    Very commonly feeding below my feeders in Tampa, Fl. They always seem to cry/ sing when they start to fly away (startled or not). They are almost always in pairs.

  •  Comment from Laura Dent

    We have a pair of Collared Doves here near Vernon B.C. this winter. It’s my first winter in BC, so was only a bit surprised the first time I saw one. Moved from Ontario & had never seen them there……lots of Mourning Doves tho. I have only seen the one pair so far, and only 1 Mourning Dove here this winter – they all come to my “All day bird buffet & spa” as my grandson calls it! (Heated bird bath! lol) – Have certainly seen lots of ‘new’ birds since we moved here last July.

  •  Comment from Karen Lewis

    We live in Gilchrist County, FL. We had two of these birds come to our feeders last month, and this is the first time we have ever seen them in 10 years We have white-winged , rock, and mourning also. What a shock it was to see these all white doves. They are beautiful, even tho it’s an invader.

  •  Comment from Dave Reid

    April 25 2014 Spotted a white dove in Virden Mb. Looks like it was hanging out with a mourning dove.

  •  Comment from david

    ive these nesting in my garden in uk are these classed as vermin

  •  Comment from Steve

    Here in Emmett (Southwestern Idaho) these annoying Eurasian doves have overtaken the local dove population. They are everywhere. On any given street in the county they sit atop the telephone poles, tress, love to poop on vehicles.
    There are literally many thousands here in Gem County. (May 2014)

    I am a bird lover, but their incessant “whining” throughout the day makes it virtually impossible to nap.

    I loathe these creatures with a passion !!!

  •  Comment from Tim Wilson

    These have become abundant here in the Willamette Valley (Oregon). I saw the first one 4 years ago, now they are everywhere. It seems that I see fewer Mourning Doves as well.

  •  Comment from Hilloree

    I saw one 2 days ago in my backyard here on BC’s Sunshine Coast. First one I’ve ever seen. I mistook it for a mourning dove until I took a couple of fuzzy pictures and was able to make a closer inspection.

  •  Comment from Dennis Roll

    There is a pair (or more) in Drumheller, Alberta. I first saw them here last summer (2013).

  •  Comment from joan

    Seen one on power lines in Bawlf, AB Canada July 2014.

  •  Comment from Sylvia Pedersen

    I had two at my home in Gustavus last week .i am excited to see them and love their cooing…

  •  Comment from Jill Hawkins-French

    This invasive dove showed up in my southern Vancouver Island neighbourhood earlier this year (2014). Its call is unmistakable. Now a pair have moved into our back garden and appear to have a nest, as they are actively chasing away other birds, including a Pileated Woodpecker this morning!

  •  Comment from Linda Blunt

    In The foothills of Colorado, there are an invasion of these doves. I too enjoyed their cooing, until i noted other birds were no longer present. Neither did the butterflies stay this year? Is there a connection or are all of us who seem to observe the same, mistaken on our connection that the doves chased the other birds away?

    • We saw one today in our yard. She sat on the fence a long time, then flew to the edge of our goldfish pond and drank water and then fles away. I have never seen this bird here before. Oakland, CA

  •  Comment from Jane Dunkin

    Nehalem on the north Oregon coast – they’re EVERYWHERE. Sounds like they’ve comfortably invaded the entire continent just like the European starling. I knew they looked funny… just couldn’t be mourning doves. Sad to discover I was right.

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