Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Columbidae in My Yard

I have determined there are three different pigeons and doves (Columbidae) visiting my feeders. The dratted Eurasian Collared-Dove (seen to the right) visits in highest numbers, but also the Band-tailed Pigeon and the occasionally the sweet little Mourning Dove. I have observed Rock Doves (feral pigeons) in the area, but have not actually discovered them here.

In that the Mourning Dove was a recent visitor under the seed feeders, I thought the only other visiting Columbidae was that Eurasian Collared-Dove, until an acquaintance pointed out one day that we also have Band-tailed Pigeons (seen above) and how to tell the difference. I’m embarrassed at my cavalier attitude to these birds which inhibited my actually looking at them.

Here is about a most clumsy attempt at graphically showing what, for me, is the main field-marker for telling the Band-tailed Pigeon in flight, from the Eurasian Collared-Dove…which is similar size and at first glance and similarly colored. These are examples of their tails in flight. I find that noticing the green iridescence on their necks is dependent on the quality of the light available at the time. Besides, all these birds fly as soon as I open the door or even if they just see me move inside the house. But the tail tells all (for me); the Band-tailed Pigeon has a rounder tail and a wide, white band across the edge. The Eurasian Collared-dove has a more pointed tail with a bit of edging just at the outer edges.

Both birds are about 14” long, and sort of pale-gray, but the Band-tailed Pigeon has a lavender wash overall; making the bird appear almost rosy. Both birds have ‘collars’, too…though the Band-tailed Pigeon has a thin black line just below a broader white neck-ring at the back of the head. This bird also has a yellow, bblack-tipped bill. The Eurasian Collared-Dove has a dark neck-ring and dark bill.

The little Mourning Dove (seen to the right) is smaller, only about 12” and is darker and more slender. It’s overall gray-brown is accompanied by small black spots on it’s wing coverts. This bird has no collar and a long, very pointed tail.

The White-winged Dove has also been observed in this area, but I have not seen it. This bird is even smaller than the Mourning Dove, but is more stocky. It has broad wings and a short square tail. The upper wing coverts are white and form a narrow white edge along the folded wing. This bit of white makes a striking band in flight which contrasts with very dark primaries and blackish flight feathers.

Pigeons and doves are the only North American birds capable of suctioning water; so they can drink without the need to raise their heads, which allows water to run down the throat. These birds also have an unusual need for water, drinking up to 15% of their body weight each day.

Photos on this post from Wikipedia


Bosque Bill said...

Guide books list sizes by length, so the White-winged dove is shown as 1/2" smaller than the Mourning dove. In actual viewing the White-winged dove is a noticeably "larger" bird than the Mourning... as you said, stockier, and the extra length of the Mourning is in that tapered tail. Size and length being two separate characteristics in this case.

Of the Columbidae in my yard, Mourning doves are by far the most prevalent (especially in springtime,) White-winged occasionally come by, but mostly I see them in the bosque. I do have an Eurasian-collared once in a while.

Rarely, a few Rock pigeons will be seen pecking at the ground next to the street.

The Band-tails may be around, but apparently in small enough numbers as to escape my attention.

Beverly said...

Yup, you’re right. I tried to compare the White-winged Dove with the Mourning Dove…considering size. I also compared the Band-tailed Pigeon and the Eurasian Collared-Dove and they are within half an inch, too.

I’ve never seen a White-winged Dove…but this area seems to be the ‘sure’ spot to find them; according to this site.

And…truth be told, now I’m confused. I could be wrong, but I may not even have Band-tailed Doves, dammit. I was just out looking…and every damn dove I saw had a black bill! Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhh… I’ve got more studying to do!

(Good thing the Northwest Nature Nut didn’t see that…I’d prolly loose two points for misidentifying a bird! LOL )

As I've said, I've not seen the Rock pigeons, except over by the little bridge coming into town. Funny...

While I've seen many Mourning Doves around...the other day was the very first time I've actually spotted them on the ground in my yard! Crazy...

Larry said...

Interesting fact about their need for water-I notice that our doves stay on or near the birdbath most of the day.-We have Mourning doves and Rock Doves/ Pigeons-whatever they call them now.-If we saw the other birds that you described-we'd be happy about it.-I thought it was effective the way you described the tail.-I can't draw at all. _It was kind of funny though because you diagram reminded me of industrial arts drafting from high school.

Beverly said...

Perhaps it looked that way because I was in that class! LMAO

Thanks for visiting. I used to live in Prospect...and have been up to White Plains on business a few times; but I have no idea where Portland, CT is; I'll have to check it out.

Debbie said...

I haven't seen them at my place so the elevation may be too high for them. But I do confess that they are not my favorite birds. Kind of messy.

Beverly said...

I dunno about the elevation thing. Somehow I imagine they’re EVERYWHERE! However, if I have it right you’ve got new feeders and they are not ‘ground’ or ‘flat-bed’ feeders; which is what these birds prefer.

I couldn’t agree more; bigger birds ARE messy; the whitewash from the raptors is the worst! LOL

The reason I mentioned them is because I’m ‘counting’ with a group monitoring the month of October. Distinguishing one pigeon or dove from another may add a bird or two for my monthly count; not to mention improving my ‘observation’ skills…which are sorely lacking.

It’s just a ‘game’…I’m not rabid about any of this; I can’t afford to be. The learning process is fun though…and it keeps me off the streets! ;0

I appreciate your comments, Debbie; thanks!

Debbie said...

I have one small feeder tray and 2 feeder tubes. Wish I had room for more but I'm in a townhouse so it's hard. I'd put something in a tree, but in the winter, I can't get to them because of the snow! I think last year we had about 360". And it's snowing today. And so it begins. . .

Beverly said...

Well, I think it sounds like you’ve got a good selection of feeders. Larger trays or ‘flat-bed feeders’, as I call them, pretty much attract the pigeon types and often Grackles and Blackbirds, to boot. While I find those birds pretty and sometimes fun to watch, I cannot afford to feed them. However, the Grosbeaks and Jays like this type of feeder, too…so I have a couple. When the big birds don’t scare them off; these feeders are where I usually find Cassin’s, House, and Purple Finches, and Pine Siskin, too.

I have a couple of tube-feeders, too. I offer a mix (by Purina) of the very expensive black Nyjer seed with canary seed and sunflower chips (which keeps the price down). The little birds love the stuff and the feeder holes are too small and the perches too short for bigger birds. Perfect in my book! I’ve seen mostly Pine Siskins, American and Lesser Goldfinches and sometimes the other finches on these feeders, too.

I have one cylindrical feeder with larger holes that I fill with Black Oil Sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Nuthatches love this feeder for their fast, grab-and-dash kind of feeding. Again, for the most part the bigger birds find it too difficult; there are no perches.

I also think it’s really beneficial to offer suet in the winter-time…and I have several cages of the stuff hanging around the yard. It’s a bit distressing when the Magpies I had nesting near here brought their brood with them; six big birds can go through a block of suet pretty fast! But again…it’s fairly uncomfortable for them and usually they don’t come around, so I don’t begrudge them a bit.

The various Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, and Rosy Finches are birds I know like to ground-feed. Often they group under feeders…joined by Blackbirds, Doves, Grackles and Cow-birds; which I try to discourage. Thankfully those birds are pretty skittish; so I can sit right by my back door, where I toss a handful of sunflower seeds on the cement just outside and watch the ones I like, from inside my house. These guys don’t seem to mind my presence behind the glass door.

I’m hoping that the occasional LBB (little brown bird) I noticed last winter and felt was somehow ‘different’ will be a bird that, this year, I can identify. I’ve yet to identify most sparrows, a Redpoll, Towhee or Thrush (other then American Robin) or any wrens in my yard; though I may have seen them. I’d like to think this year I can ID them…if they show up.

Last spring I got an American Redstart (at the flatbed feeder) and some Yellow Warbler pairs in the trees...and just the other day some Yellow-rumped Warblers! I am getting better.

Debbie said...

That sounds so neat, Beverly. A mountain chickadee just started showing up here. He grabs a bite in the morning and then takes off. I was so excited to see another kind of bird.

I know I'm getting Cassin's finch. You just can't miss that red patch on the top of the head. I've wondered if I'm getting house finches but can't confirm that yet. I wondered if some of the birds were purple finches, but they've apparently never been spotted in Summit county. It's highly unlikely that a newbie like me would be making the first discovery of them here. LOL!

The blackbirds that I had a couple of weeks ago must have been just passing through. I am pretty certain I had a grackle too, but no more.

I throw seeds on my balcony to watch the juncos. The nuthatches are regulars -- always pygmies and occasionally the white breasted variety. Haven't seen the pine siskins in a while, but I'm sure they'll be back. I have a female hairy woodpecker that frequents the feeder. Haven't seen the male in a while.

We're going away for a couple of weeks and I'll leave out plenty of food. Next time I get to the store, I want to get some suet. Sorry to ramble on. I'm just having a blast watching my birds.

Bosque Bill said...

Debbie, if you are going away for a bit, you might want to look into seed blocks. They seem to last longer than loose seed. They come in many varieties, though you may be restricted to whatever is locally available.

I get lots of House finches down here, but keep looking for Cassin's to wander by as they are regularly seen at slightly higher than my 5000' altitude.

Beverly said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhh, doncha just love the Chickadees? They show up…find the perfect seed in just a moment...and are gone! But they always come back. It seems like such a waste of energy to me…but perhaps they are shy, or perhaps not spending long feeding times at our feeders keeps them healthier and perhaps safer from predators. All I know is, it’s always a joy to see them.

Yeah, the red-heads. Those Cassin’s finches are hard to miss, aren’t theyt? Still…they are so similar to both Purple finches and the red-version of House finches; they can be mistaken. Like you, it is their top-notches that flag them for me. Did you find the pages where these three birds are compared?

I’m at 7000’, so apparently sometimes we get Cassin’s finches; I saw many of them last year. But I also saw all three Rosy Finch…which I hear is unusual. Go figure!

As long as you don’t feed corn, perhaps the blackbirds will continue to just ‘pass through’. Mine stayed a couple months…by the hundreds!

I love the Juncos…but have not seen one yet this year. We just got our first ‘on the ground’ snow…about 3 inches. I’m sure they aren’t far away, now! I had every version…from pink-sided to white-winged; and I like ‘em all.

While I have seen some Flickers from time to time, both Hairy and Downey Woodpeckers seem to be gone for now. Odd, too; I remember them last winter. I suppose that could be the function of ‘northern birds moving south’…so here in the slightly northern climate…our ‘home’ birds could have moved and more northern birds will arrive soon. Wild, isn’t it?

Enjoy your trip! Oh…and Bill is an online friend of mine in New Mexico and sure does know his birds!

Bosque Bill said...

Part of the reason the chickadees grab and run is that their bill isn't constructed to crack the hard seed, unlike finches for example.

They will take it to a perch, hold it down with a foot, and peck at it to crack it open. Then they eat the yummy inside and fly back for more.

Beverly said...

Now that’s interesting. I’ve watched Chickadees grab and run…and realize they’re hiding seeds for later. But, even today I watched a Blue Jay, which apparently can hold about 100 sunflower seeds in it’s craw, sift through and toss out safflower seeds to find specific sunflower seeds; which it then picked up, jumped up to a position above the feeder, where it could hold and hammer open the seed exactly as the chickadee does! You’d think a Blue Jay could more easily open such a seed; no?

Yes, it opened and ate the yummy inside and flew back down for more; just like a chickadee. Wild.

Thanks for visiting, Bill! I know you're busy. If anybody is interested in birding around Albuquerque NM, you need to see Bill's website! Click his name...

Bosque Bill said...

Last post for tonight... it is not necessarily the size of the bill, but the shape and the arrangement of the jaw muscles.

The chickadee and jay both have tapered, pointed bills. Finches, sparrows and the like have heavier, shorter bills evolved to crack seeds open.

Shape/function, habitat/food these are a few the things we learn to look for when trying to ID a bird. The difficult identifications frequently arise when the "candidate" birds are functionally similar or in the same family.