With their striking soft part colors, red legs, blue eye rings and orange irises, White-winged Doves easily outshine all other North American pigeons and doves. In flight these doves display white median and greater coverts as an even broader stripe than standing doves show (Schwertner et al. 2002).
Their original summer home in Texas was the dense riparian forests adjoining the lower Rio Grande River with an estimated population of several million doves in the early 1900s. After 1920 destruction of these forests for agriculture proceeded ever more rapidly. The effect of this habitat loss, augmented by a severe freeze in the early 1950s, apparently pushed breeding doves north into mesquite brushland. This is shown on Oberholser’s (1974) map. More recent expansion of the breeding range further northward is shown on the TBBA map below. In addition to this change White-winged Doves have also moved into urban areas and 1.3 million of these doves were estimated to be present year-round in San Antonio in 2001 (Schaefer et al. 2005).
DISTRIBUTION. During the 1987-1992 field work seasons of the TBBA project, volunteers found most breeding evidence for White-winged Doves in the Coastal Sand Plain, South Texas Brush Country, southern Coastal Prairies and Trans-Pecos regions (see the region map in Lockwood and Freeman ). These authors report White-wings are still rapidly expanding their range in Texas. As of 2005 breeding by these doves had been confirmed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department surveys in most Texas counties. Most counties where breeding has not been confirmed are in the Pineywoods or High Plains regions (Figure 7, Small et al. 2006). Interestingly breeding was apparently not detected for these doves in Oklahoma by atlasers or the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) in that state, although breeding has been reported in 14 Texas counties bordering Oklahoma (Reinking 2004, Small et al. 2006, Sauer et al. 2007). These discrepancies may result from the rapidity of this range expansion and still small populations involved in border areas.
Outside Texas White-winged Doves breed in the United States from southeast California and southern Nevada to New Mexico. Another population breeds in peninsular Florida, as well as much of Mexico and Central America and many Caribbean islands (Howell and Webb 1995, Am. Ornithol. Union 1998, Small et al. 2006).
SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. White- winged Doves are present year-round in urban areas (Schaefer et al. 2005, Small et al. 2006), but may move southward in winter from colder areas of the state where food availability is a problem. Migrants arrive between late March and mid-May. Most breeding occurs from early May to late August with some in April and September, based on egg dates from April 16 to August 13 and young in nests as late as September 5. Southbound migrants are seen from late August to mid-November (Oberholser 1974). In Arizona where another subspecies is present, atlasers found breeding evidence from March through late June (Wise-Gervais 2005).
BREEDING HABITAT. White-winged Doves breed in Texas from near sea level to about 1650 m (5500 ft). Near the Rio Grande River southeast from Laredo these doves prefer ebony-mesquite-prickly pear habitat although mature citrus groves are also used. Further north pecan, ash, live oaks and other shade trees in suburbs and rural areas are used (Oberholser 1974). In dense habitats these doves may nest colonially (>25 pairs/ha [2.5 acre]). The nest is usually placed in a shaded spot in the interior of the canopy, on a horizontal limb, in a crotch or in a sturdy shrub. The nest, usually built by both sexes of twigs and sometimes forbs, grass or Spanish moss in 1-2 days, is a frail platform with a slight hollow for eggs (Oberholser 1974, Harrison 1979, Schwertner 2002).
In the depression the female usually lays 2 smooth, white to creamy buff eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs, the male during the day and the female at night, for about 14 days. The nestlings leave the nest about 13-18 days alter hatching and remain in their territory for about 14 days after that. Second successful broods are rare (Schwertner 2002).
STATUS. White-winged Doves are currently common to locally abundant summer residents throughout the southern half of Texas (Lockwood and Freeman 2004). Most of the breeding evidence on the TBBA map below coincides with the breeding range on Oberholser’s (1974) map (below the 30th parallel in south Texas and near the Rio Grande in the Trans-Pecos). However the additional sites north of the pre-1974 breeding range indicate a range expansion in process.
BBS data (1994-2003) show the highest relative abundance for this species in Texas in the South Texas Brush Country, 10-30 White-wings per 40 km (25 mi) route. Observers detected these doves as far north as the 35th parallel and as far east as the 95th meridian, although at much lower relative abundances (Sauer et al. 2007). The most recent evidence on the extent of this range extension is the map (Figure 7) in Small et al. (2006) showing counties with confirmed breeding evidence for White-winged Doves. Most Texas counties, including all those in the Trans-Pecos, Edwards Plateau, South Texas Brush Country, Coastal Sand Plain and Coastal Prairies regions have confirmed breeding as well as most counties in the Rolling Plains and Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairies and some counties in the High Plains regions.
BBS trend data for the period 1980-2006 indicate a statistically significant annual; population change of +13.0%. (Sauer et al. 2007). This increase is especially notable since these doves are popular game birds. This change is also consistent with changes in range.
Text by Robert C. Tweit (2007)
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Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.
Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.
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