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White-winged Dove Life History


TownsWhite-winged Doves live in dense, thorny forests, streamside woodlands, deserts full of cactus and palo verde, and, more recently, urban and suburban areas of the southern U.S. They tend to breed in the interiors of forests rather than near the edges. White-winged Doves now breed as far north as Oklahoma, possibly taking advantage of bird feeders and artificial heat sources in cities. Their breeding range extends south to Panama and east to Cuba. Throughout their range White-winged Doves prefer places where nesting habitat is interspersed with feeding habitat, like grain fields or desert cactus communities. In the winter White-winged Doves are found throughout most of their breeding range as well as in the southeastern United States, and some individuals wander widely across the continent. Back to top


SeedsAcross much of its range, the vegetarian White-winged Dove eats mostly grains and other agricultural crops like wheat, sunflower, milo, corn, and safflower. It also eats fruits and large seeds from plants like spurge, panic grass, bristlegrass, Mexican jumping beans, Chinese tallow, leatherweed, saguaro, lime prickly-ash, brasil, privet, pigeonberry, and ocotillo. The White-winged Dove seems to be predisposed toward large seeds because of its large bill and gape, along with its slower eating style (it never pecks quickly, the way Mourning Doves do). White-winged Doves also commonly feed above ground level, unlike Mourning Doves, on seedheads, berries, and raised bird feeders. Like many birds, White-winged Doves consume small stones to help pulverize plant material in their gizzards, and they may eat snails and bone fragments as a source of calcium.Back to top


Nest Placement

TreeThe male chooses the territory and the general nesting site, while the female selects the specific nest site, usually on a tree branch or crotch under heavy shade. In cities, the doves choose large ornamental shade trees like pecan, live oak, and ash. Elsewhere, they gravitate toward the interior of dense woodlands, particularly along streams.

Nest Description

The male gathers twigs and brings them to the female, which constructs the nest over a couple of days. Made mostly of twigs, the nest also may have weeds, grasses or Spanish moss arranged in a flimsy bowl about 4 inches across. On rare occasions it’s also lined with leaves, bark, feathers, or pine needles.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-2 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:1.1-1.3 in (2.7-3.2 cm)
Egg Width:0.8-0.9 in (1.9-2.3 cm)
Incubation Period:14-20 days
Nestling Period:13-18 days
Egg Description:Creamy white or buff with a dull texture.
Condition at Hatching:Eyes closed and dark skin coated with long off-white down feathers. Weak and uncoordinated.
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Ground ForagerWhite-winged Doves walk along tree branches and on the ground; they fly in a swift and straight path. Courting and nesting males will occasionally strike bills and slap wings with each other, but they mostly defend their cooing perches and nests by calling or flailing their wings and tail. Males perform courtship flights, spiraling up into the sky and then returning to the branch he started from in a stiff-winged glide. They may also bow, puff up their necks, or fan the tail to entice females to mate; White-winged Doves are monogamous and stay together for at least one breeding season. When a predator comes to call at the nest, White-winged Doves may feign a broken wing to lead the intruder away. In other situations, they escape by flying directly into the bushes. Predators of adults or young include Great-tailed Grackles, Green Jays, Cactus Wrens, Gila Woodpeckers, Great Horned Owls, woodrats, deer mice, gray foxes, Norway rats, black rats, house cats, and snakes.Back to top


Low Concern

White-winged Dove populations increased between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 14 million and rates them 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Humans have sharply reduced habitat for White-winged Doves (along with other animals that live in woodland interiors) by clearing land and fragmenting forests. In the early twentieth century, sportsmen hunted the doves so heavily that the populations declined in parts of their range, particularly at their U.S. stronghold in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. However, the doves seem to have found an expansive new habitat type to which they are well adapted—cities and towns—possibly because of backyard bird feeders, warm asphalt and concrete surfaces, and artificial heat sources. They have been expanding northward since the 1980s, offsetting their former decline. White-winged Doves are still hunted, but in 1971 Texas began requiring all hunters to buy White-winged Dove hunting stamps. The government sold 1.4 million stamps in the first 30 years, generating $8.4 million for White-winged Dove conservation. The doves are still affected by habitat loss in their original range, and like many birds they also fall victim to striking utility lines, cars, and buildings.

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

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.

Schwertner, T. W., H. A. Mathewson, J. A. Roberson and G. L. Waggerman. (2002). White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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

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