Living Bird Magazine
White-winged DoveZenaida asiatica
- ORDER: Columbiformes
- FAMILY: Columbidae
Originally a bird of desert thickets, the White-winged Dove has become a common sight in cities and towns across the southern U.S. When perched, this bird’s unspotted brown upperparts and neat white crescents along the wing distinguish it from the ubiquitous Mourning Dove. In flight, those subdued crescents become flashing white stripes worthy of the bird’s common name. Take a closer look and you’ll see a remarkably colorful face, with bright-orange eyes and blue “eye shadow.”More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for White-winged Doves near urban areas, including in cities, in the southern U.S. They forage on the ground in small groups, perch on bird feeders, or nest in big shade trees. They’re a delicate tan when perched, but in flight they become quite striking, with long white wing stripes setting off dark outer wings. In the forests and cactus deserts of the Southwest, they’re often found near water in the morning and afternoon.
- Paloma Alas Blancas (Spanish)
- Tourterelle à ailes blanches (French)
White-winged Doves often eat at elevated bird feeders. They’re fond of seeds, including sunflower, milo, corn, safflower, and they may also eat berries from shrubs. White-winged Doves sometimes fly into windows when startled, so it’s important to make sure your windows are bird-safe.
- Cool Facts
- In the Sonoran Desert, nesting White-winged Doves eat mostly the nectar, pollen, fruit, and seeds of the saguaro cactus. They’re so dependent on the saguaro they time their migration and nesting to match its fruiting schedule. Saguaro seeds are the only small seeds that a White-winged Dove will bother with—possibly because they sit in a large, cup-shaped fruit that makes them easy to eat.
- Like other doves and pigeons, White-winged Doves have some unusual abilities. They can suck and swallow water without moving their heads. And they use a secretion from the esophagus, known as crop milk, to feed nestlings. Both parents may consume snails and bone fragments to help their bodies create the nutritious fluid.
- Although the White-winged Dove is mostly resident in the Southwest, it is expanding its range, and individuals can be found far afield. White-winged Doves have been seen from Alaska to Ontario, Maine, Newfoundland, and most places in between.
- During the twentieth century, habitat loss and heavy hunting led to a serious drop in White-winged Dove populations in Texas—from as many as 12 million to fewer than 1 million by 1939. But with proactive management of hunting and the species’ ability to adapt to urban living, the population rebounded to some 2.2 million by 2001, and its range is still expanding.
- In the early 1980s, the singer Stevie Nicks introduced millions of Americans to the White-winged Dove with her song “Edge of Seventeen,” which hit #11 on the Billboard charts.
- The oldest White-winged Dove on record was at least 21 years and 9 months old. It was banded in Arizona and later recovered in Mexico.