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Inca Dove Life History


TownsInca Doves use farmlands, parks, suburbs, and urban areas with open ground and scattered trees and shrubs such as palo verde and oak in dry areas of the Southwest. They generally avoid forested areas, seeking bare ground with short vegetation instead. Back to top


SeedsInca Doves eat almost exclusively seeds. They walk along the ground picking at seeds from grasses, flowers, and shrubs. They also eat grains and seeds from bird feeders including black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, and nyjer seeds. Back to top


Nest Placement

ShrubInca Doves nest in trees and shrubs as well as on utility poles, houses, and other structures. Nest height ranges from half a foot to 50 feet above the ground. The male gathers grasses and twigs for the female. He walks up to her with pieces of nesting material in his mouth, climbs up her back, and passes it to her or lays it by her side. She then arranges the grasses and twigs into a nest and occasionally collects nesting material herself.

Nest Description

Males and females work together to build a rough and flimsy platform of twigs, grass, leaves, rootlets, and strips of bark. Construction takes about 3 days. The nest usually has no lining, but sometimes they put a bit of grass or a few feathers in the nest. Inca Doves often nest several times in the same year, and they frequently reuse the same nest for each attempt. Over time the nest becomes cemented with excrement left from nestlings. The nest is about 2 inches across and 1 inch high. Though they usually build their own nests they also reuse old nests built by Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, Cactus Wrens, or Northern Cardinals.

Nesting Facts

Number of Broods:2-5 broods
Egg Length:0.8-1.0 in (2-2.5 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.7 in (1.5-1.8 cm)
Incubation Period:13-15 days
Nestling Period:12-16 days
Egg Description:White and unmarked.
Condition at Hatching:Naked with sparse down.
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Ground ForagerInca Doves walk along the ground pushing their heads forward with each step. They forage on the ground singly or in groups gently picking at the ground for seeds and grains. They move loose vegetation out of the way by tossing their bill side to side, uncovering seeds hidden below. If they are disturbed while foraging, they burst into an audible flight flashing their chestnut underwings and white outer tail feathers. They generally do not fly far after being startled and often resettle in a nearby tree or shrub. Although they often forage in groups, males maintain territory boundaries during the breeding season. Territorial males threaten intruding doves by walking in a zigzag pattern toward the intruder. If the intruder does not go away, he flips one wing up and continues to walk toward them, attacking them with his wings and bill. Male and female Inca Doves form monogamous bonds during the breeding season. Pair bonding begins with a display in which the male starts bobbing his head. If she is receptive, the female responds in kind. As courtship progresses, they begin preening each other and continue to do so throughout the breeding season. In the final step of courtship, the male faces the female and sticks his tail straight up in the air while fanning it. Within a week after the tail fanning display, the female starts building the nest. At this time, the male starts guarding his mate, herding her away from other interested males. Back to top


Low ConcernInca doves are common throughout their range, and U.S. populations increased by over 1.5% per year between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 3 million, with 33% living in the United States and 61% in Mexico. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Inca Dove is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. Inca Doves appear well adapted to human settlements and have expanded north in recent years. As of 2017, they have been found as far north as Colorado, where prior to the early 1990s they were absent. Back to top


Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Mueller, Allan J. (2004). Inca Dove (Columbina inca), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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