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What is that big, white dove? - Learn the origin of the Eurasian Collared-Dove

The first time I saw these doves while growing up in the Great Plains, I did not have the internet to find an answer. Hopefully, future little flockers will be able to use this information! And for the sake of those little flockers, subscribe to this questionable site!

Eurasian Collared-Dove, the big white dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Photo: ©Hedera Baltica

They are fat. They are grayish. They are noisy. And they raid your bird feeders. You have almost certainly seen these oversized doves hanging near your bird feeders. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about these doves, so let's spend some time discussing the facts about the Eurasian Collared-Dove.


Is the Eurasian Collared-Dove a Turtle Dove?

This is a tough question to answer. No, the Eurasian Collared-Dove is not considered a 'turtle dove' by the birding community. However, they are often referred to as turtle doves by the exotic pet trade industry. This common misnomer does not mean much to someone new to birdwatching. However, if you tell a bird-lover in North America that you saw a wild turtle dove, they will likely give you a look of bewilderment. There are four true turtle doves, and they do not have established populations in North America. The name turtle dove likely originates from early descriptions of the turtle dove's song. The "turr, turr" sound was used to describe some of the species, and when you attempt to say "turr, turr" quickly, it sounds eerily similar to 'turtle.' If you have ever heard the Eurasian Collared-Dove sing, it is more like an anti-musical croak.

 

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Does the Eurasian Collared-Dove compete against the Mourning Dove?

Here is a question that produces such a wide variety of answers and misinformation. Most birders will tell you anecdotally that Eurasian Collared-Doves outcompete, and are aggressive to the native Mourning Dove. However, multiple studies, such as this one from 2020, suggest this sentiment is not supported by the data. What does that mean? It means that Eurasian Collared-Doves probably do not affect Mourning Doves in a major way. If that study is not enough to convince you that this bias against Eurasian Collared-Doves is misplaced, check out this study from 2006! There are multiple studies floating around that support this thought that Eurasian Collared-Doves are not detrimental to the Mourning Dove. In fact, the Mourning Dove is often the aggressor at the bird feeder. Mind. Blown.


Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Expansion

Eurasian Collared-Doves were introduced into the Bahamas and made their way into Florida in the 1980s. In less than 40 years, their populations reached the southern parts of Alaska. They are still unusual in some parts of their 2020 range, but sightings are becoming far more frequent.


Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Map

Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Map
Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Map

The highest density of the Eurasian Collared-Dove population lies in the Great Plains from Nebraska to the northern reaches of Texas. They have extended their population into Central America and many Canadian provinces. The native range of the Eurasian Collared-Dove is, as their name indicates, Europe and Asia.


How to tell the Eurasian Collared-Dove from the Mourning Dove

The Eurasian Collared-Dove is often colloquially known as the 'ring-necked dove' for a reason. It has a partial ring on its neck. This collar does not extend all the way around its neck, but it is usually quite visible. If you can see the obvious partial collar, you are not looking at a Mourning Dove.

Eurasian Collared-Dove (left) vs Mourning Dove (right)
Eurasian Collared-Dove (left) vs Mourning Dove (right)

Here are some quick tips for separating these two doves:

  1. Neck collar

    1. Eurasian Collared-Dove - the partial collar is present

    2. Mourning Dove - a collar of any kind is absent (with some rare exceptions)

  2. Color

    1. Eurasian Collared-Dove - the Eurasian Collared-Dove is a pale, gray dove with extensive black on its tailfeathers

    2. Mourning Dove - the Mourning Doves is quite buffy to brown overall with little to no black on the tailfeathers

  3. Size

    1. Eurasian Collared-Dove - the Eurasian Collared-Dove is significantly larger than the Mourning Dove

    2. Mourning Dove - the Mourning Dove is much smaller and more slender than the Eurasian Collared-Dove

  4. Tail

    1. Eurasian Collared-Dove - the tail of the Eurasian Collared-Dove is squared off

    2. Mourning Dove - the tail of the Mourning Dove is pointed


How to attract doves to your yard?

If you want to attract a wide variety of birds, including most types of doves, to your yard, a large platform feeder with black oil sunflower seed is your best bet. Why a platform feeder? Doves need to feel like they are sitting on something sturdy. Doves often struggle with smaller, wobbly feeders, and a stable, low-to-the-ground feeder is your best choice for attracting these large-bodied birds. Want even more doves? Try adding millet to your feeding array! Doves LOVE millet.


Ground feeders are great for doves.

 

Black oil sunflower seed is a great option to attract doves.

 

White millet seed is the BEST attractant for doves and many other birds!

If you want A LOT of doves, grab the 50 lb bag of white millet!


Can you hunt and eat the Eurasian Collared-Dove?

This is a tough question for me. I do not condone the heedless killing of game and/or nongame animals, even if they are 'invasive.' At the same time, I do not oppose harvesting and/or managing game species and non-native wildlife. With all of my hedging in mind, there are no federal protections for the Eurasian Collared-Dove. This means you can hunt them year-round, depending on your state and local regulations. If you do decide to trap or hunt this species, consider donating the meat to the less fortunate if you do not plan to eat your quarry.


The maligned Eurasian Collared-Dove may not be a colorful beauty, but it does receive a reputation that is often unwarranted. Take the time to fully appreciate these exotic beauties, as long as they are not running up your birdseed bill.


 

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