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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Common Ground-Dove


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A dove the size of a sparrow, the Common Ground-Dove forages in dusty open areas, sometimes overshadowed by the grass clumps it is feeding beneath. Its dusty plumage is easy to overlook until the bird springs into flight with a soft rattling of feathers and a flash of reddish-brown in the wings. These small, attractive doves are common across the southernmost parts of the U.S. from California to Florida.

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Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Common Ground-Doves are tiny doves with short, round wings, short tails, and short, thin bills. They are stocky, with short legs, and they shuffle as they walk.

  • Color Pattern

    Common Ground-Doves are sandy brown overall, with large, dark spots on the wing coverts. In flight the wings show rich rufous patches. Males have a pinkish wash on the head, neck, and chest, and bluish crowns; females are duller. Both sexes have fine, dark scaling on the neck and chest, and pinkish-red bills with a dark tip.

  • Behavior

    Common Ground-Doves are relatively retiring, and usually hide in grasslands and small groves of trees. Males sing a series of quiet, moaning coos. Frequently seen on the ground at backyard bird feeders, Common Ground-Doves eat seeds and grains, along with some insects.

  • Habitat

    Common Ground-Doves live in open or shrubby areas with tall grasses or groves of trees, including riparian corridors and open savannas. They also live in towns and suburbs, where they frequent yards and hedges.

Range Map Help

Common Ground-Dove Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Common Ground-Dove

    • Small, compact dove
    • Scaling on head and neck
    • Short tail
    • Iridescent spots on wings
    • © Nick Dean, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas, September 2011
  • Adult

    Common Ground-Dove

    • Small and stocky dove
    • Mostly gray-brown overall
    • Scaly pattern on head and neck
    • Dark spots on wing show iridescence in good light
    • © Cameron Rognan, Imperial Valley, California, February 2008
  • Adult

    Common Ground-Dove

    • Small, stocky dove
    • Bright rufous underwings
    • Scaly pattern on head and neck
    • © Cameron Rognan, Imperial Valley, California, February 2008

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Inca Dove

    • More elongated and slender than Common Ground-Dove
    • Long tail
    • Extensive scaly pattern extends onto body and wings
    • © Greg Page, High Island, Texas, June 2010
  • Adult

    Mourning Dove

    • Larger and longer-tailed than Common Ground-Dove
    • Pot-bellied appearance
    • Dark spot on face
    • Lacks scaly patterning
    • © Ken Schneider, December 2008

Similar Species

Inca Doves are slightly larger with much longer tails. They have dark tips on most of their wing and body feathers, imparting a scaled look to the entire bird, and they are grayer overall. Mourning Doves are much larger, with a long, pointed tail and smoothly gray-brown plumage without any scaling. The Ruddy Ground-Dove is extremely rare in the United States, but common in Mexico and Central America. It lacks scaling on the head and neck, and has dark spotting on the scapulars (shoulders). They also have grayish bills, and the males are usually more richly colored than Common Ground-Doves.

Regional Differences

Common Ground-Doves in the Southeast and Texas are darker and richer in color than the paler and grayer populations of the Southwest.

Backyard Tips

Common Ground-Doves come to ground feeders with commercial birdseed, rapeseed, millet, canary seed, buckwheat, sorghum, and other seeds. They need nearby shrub cover to stay hidden from predators. They regularly visit water holes to drink, but make sure there is some open space around the water source so predators can’t sneak up on them too easily. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Find This Bird

Common Ground-Doves are often found in pairs or small flocks, but can be hard to see as their grayish-brown plumage blends in with the ground. People may not notice Common Ground-Doves until the birds flush into nearby brush, displaying rich chestnut wing patches as they fly. When people do spot these tiny, short-tailed doves, they sometimes mistake them for sparrows. You might hear a repetitive moaning call even if the bird is well concealed in the bushes.