Living Bird Magazine
Common Ground-DoveColumbina passerina
- ORDER: Columbiformes
- FAMILY: Columbidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Columbina Común (Spanish)
- Colombe à queue noire (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- It’s estimated that a Common Ground-Dove has to eat more than 2,500 seeds every day to meet its energetic demands. It can store hundreds of seeds in its two-lobed crop, an enlarged pocket of the esophagus.
- Ground-doves may breed opportunistically after rainfall or fire to take advantage of the extra abundance of seeds. Both parents use a secretion from the esophagus, known as crop milk, to feed nestlings. Since they do not have to rely on specific food items for their chicks, ground-doves can have a long breeding season with multiple broods.
- Like other doves and pigeons, Common Ground-Doves can suck up and swallow water without raising their heads.
- The Common Ground-Dove is about the same size as a Song Sparrow, making it one of the smallest doves in North America. Its diminutive size is reflected in both the genus name Columbina, which means little dove, and in the species name passerina, which means sparrow.
- In the rural South, the Common Ground-Dove is sometimes called the “moaning dove” for its repetitive call or the “tobacco dove” for making its home near farm fields.
- In flight ground-doves make a whirring sound, probably produced by a notch in the seventh primary feather on each wing.
- Because it nests and feeds on the ground, the Common Ground-Dove lives in constant danger of predation from terrestrial animals like bobcats, opossums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, dogs, cats, and snakes. Birds hunt it too, including crows, jays, blackbirds, owls, hawks, falcons, and shrikes. The ground-dove’s main weapon against predators is concealment: hiding in vegetation or simply blending into the dusty ground.
- The oldest Common Ground-Dove on record was a female, and at least 7 years, 2 months old. She was banded in Texas and found in Mexico.