Whistler doves and then some

By Karl Ricker,

Whistler Naturalists

The Whistler Bird Checklist lists three species of dove for this area: Band-tailed pigeon (a dove), Mourning Dove, and Rock Dove (the domestic pigeon). Of the three, the Band-tailed is infrequently seen high in conifer forests, but is more often heard with its haunting "Ku-Koo" call, which for the uninitiated, sounds like an owl. It is present all seasons of the year. A light colored band across its tail and a narrow white "collar" on the back of its neck make it easy to recognize despite its crow-like size and flight pattern.

The Mourning Dove is an Interior species, residing as far north as Williams Lake-Jasper, but also found on southern Vancouver Island. There are a few localized spots in the central to northern interior as well as the Yukon. It prefers open bushy areas and the edges of urban civilization. It sports a long pointed tail fringed with white and black on each side. It’s dead easy to recognize when flying but may be more difficult when sitting with the tail obscured by a twig. Look for black spots on the side of its folded-up wings. It is listed as a very rare summer vagrant to Whistler and has not been seen for several years. Keep your eyes peeled.

The Rock Dove is our nemesis, seen almost every day of the year at the Squamish downtown and dock areas, but rarely in summer in Whistler. If BC Rail was pulling grain cars, there would be more Rock Doves to view. The bottle depot at Nesters is your best chance of finding one. The colour is variable, from very dark to very pale gray (rarely brown), with or without an iridescent green to purplish neck. Also, the base of the upper bill is white, and most "pigeons" have a white rump. Be careful, as many reported observations of rock doves have actually been band-tailed pigeons when verified.

The dove situation appears to be fairly simple, but there are new gremlins in the mix. The most recent list of B.C. Birds also reports vagrant occurrences of Oriental (or Ringed) Turtle-doves and White-winged Doves. The latter could easily be mistaken for a Mourning Dove, but has a white "trim" on the folding wing, rather than the black spots, and its tail is not pointed.

The Turtle-dove is an introduced species to the Los Angeles area but somehow it has had a visit to B.C. It has a back-of-the-neck "collar" (except it’s black, rather than white) and it also has a tail feather with white on the end, especially at the corners. Its overall pale colours could make it easy to ID except for the possibility of a pale Rock Dove. In certain lighting conditions, it could also be thought to be a Band-tailed Pigeon.

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