Skip to Content

White-winged Dove

A medium-sized dove species with a brownish-gray plumage, a distinctive white wing patch, and a preference for desert habitats and urban areas across the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America. It is known for its cooing song and is a popular game bird in some regions.

Slightly larger than its relative the Mourning Dove, the White-winged Dove was once considered a bird of southern Texas and the southwestern U.S., but in recent years has greatly expanded its range to the north and now breeds regularly in Oklahoma. Mated male White-winged Doves typically have smaller territories than unmated males, and are more vigorous in defending them.

As in other doves, young White-winged Doves are fed a special substance produced by glands in the crops of the adults that is often referred to as pigeon milk. Young birds have much higher mortality rates than adults, which can be quite long-lived once they reach adulthood. The record known age for a wild White-winged Dove is over 21 years.

Description of the White-winged Dove


The White-winged Dove is larger than the Mourning Dove, but similar in overall color. It has a bold white stripe along the lower edge of each folded wing.  In flight, large white patches are visible at the base of the flight feathers.  Its tail is squared off rather than tapered and pointed as in the Mourning Dove, though it does have a white rim on the end of the tail. Length: 11 in.  Wingspan: 19 in.

White-Winged Dove

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

White Winged-Dove in action

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.



Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Similar to adults.


White-winged Doves are found in riparian woods, mesquite rangelands, and towns.


Mostly seeds, with some fruits.


White-winged Doves forage primarily on the ground, but also in trees or saguaro cacti.


White-winged Doves breed along the Gulf Coast, in Texas, and the desert southwest south through parts of South America.  Their range has been expanding northward in recent years. The population is stable to increasing.

Fun Facts

Like most doves, the young are fed “pigeon milk”, a secretion from the crop of each parent bird.

In the Sonoran Desert, White-winged Doves help pollinate saguaro cacti.


The song of the White-winged Dove is a cooing, similar in pattern to the “who cooks for you” of the Barred Owl.

Similar Species

  • Mourning Doves have pointed tails and lack white in the wings. Eurasian Collared Doves have a black collar.

See more: Types of doves in the U.S.


The nest is flimsy platform of sticks, usually placed on a limb or fork about 5-30 feet above the ground.

Number: Usually lay 2 eggs.
Color: White or off-white.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 13-14 days and leave the nest in another 13-16 days but continue to associate with the adults for some time.

Bent Life History of the White-winged Dove

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the White-winged Dove – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.

[Current A.O.U. = White-winged Dove]

The type name of the white-winged dove is now restricted to the birds found in the West Indies and the eastern part of the range of the species. This eastern form is much less numerous than the western form and is not nearly so well known. For these reasons it has seemed best to write a full life history of the western form only.

Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway (1905) say:

This species is abundant in Jamaica, where, according to Mr. March, it is more a lowland than a mountain dove. They are said to be gregarious, usually keeping in flocks of from 10 to 20, but in January and in February, in the Guinea-corn season, and at other times when the Cerei are in fruit, they congregate in large flocks, often of several hundreds. Their food is principally grain and seeds, but they are equally fond of the ripe fruit of the different species of Ccrcus abounding on the savannas and salines during the summer. Inland, the White-Wings, In the same manner as the Baldpate, breed in solitary pairs; hut In the mangrove swamps, and in the islands along the coast, they bread In company, many In the same trees. The nest is a frail platform of sticks, with a slight hollow lined with leaves and hark, and sometimes a few feathers.

P. H. Gosse (1847) writes:

In the early months of the year, when the physic-nut (Jatroplur curcas) is ripening, and oranges come in, the Whitewing becomes plentiful In open pastures, and the low woods in the neighbourhood of habitations; the seeds of these fruits, and the castor-oil nut, forming the principal part of their food. At this time they are very easily shot, as they walk about on the ground. From the ease with which they are procured, they are a good deal eaten, though seldom fat, and rather subject to be bitter. When the rains fall, we see the Whitewings hut seldom; they betake themselves to the deep woods and impenetrable morasses, when their presence is indicated by their loud stammering coo.

Farinaceous and pulpy berries are found in the woods at all seasons, so that the Pigeons and other frugivorous birds have not only abundance but variety. Its nest Is not very often met with. I am informed that it occasionally builds In a pimento; Robinson says that it builds also in the orange, and sea-side grape, In May, a very slight and narrow platform of rude twigs, and lays two eggs, of a pale drab hue.

We found this dove abundant in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties in southern Texas, where it evidently was the most numerous bird, next to the omnipresent great-tailed grackle, in the forests and thickets about Brownsville. We found a few nests in the chaparral and in the dense forests around the resacas, which I have already described under the chachalaca. The nests were in low trees or bushes and were made of small twigs, grasses, and weeds. George B. Sennett (1878) found one nest made of Spanish-moss. The eggs are like those of the western form, but average a little smaller. The measurements of 33 eggs average 29.8 by 22.1 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 33 by 23, 31.5 by 24.5, 26.5 by 20.5, and 28 by 19.5 millimeters.


Range: Southern United States, the ‘West Indies, and Central America.

The range of the white-winged dove extends north to southern California (Brawley and Palo Verde); Arizona (Little Meadows, Big Sandy Creek, Congress Junction, New River, Roosevelt, and Graham Mountains); New Mexico (Hidalgo County, Cloverdale, Mesilla Park, and ClifF); southern Texas (Del Rio, Uvalde, Castroville, San Antonio, Beeville, and probably High Island); the Bahamas (Great Inagua Island); and the Lesser Antilles (St. Bartholomew Island). East to the Lesser Antilles (St. Bartholomew Island). South to the Lesser Antilles (St. Bartholomew Island); Haiti (Mount La Laguneat and Gonave Island); Jamaica (Spanishtown and Port Henderson); Costa Rica (La Palma); Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur); Salvador (La Libertad); Guatemala (Volcano Agua and Duenas); Oaxaca (Tehuantepec); Tepic (Las Penas Tsland and San Blas); and Lower California (Cape San Lucas). West to Lower California (Cape San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Santa Anita, Triunfo, La Paz, and Comondu); western Sonora (Guaymas); and southern California (Brawley).

Migration: Although white-winged doves are found in winter more or less throughout their breeding range, migrating birds have been observed to arrive in Arizona as follows: Sabina Canyon, April 6, Otero Creek Canyon, April 12, Oracle, April 15, and Tombstone, April 15. Similarly, fall migrants have been observed at Phoenix, October 1, and Tombstone, October 21.

The range as above outlined is for the entire species, which has, however, been separated into two subspecies. The eastern whitewinged dove (Melopelia a. asiatica) is found from Texas, eastern Mexico, and Costa Rica, east to the West Indies, and casually southern Florida. The western white-winged dove (M. a. mear’nsi) occurs in the Southwestern United States and western Mexico.

Casual records: The occurrence of white-winged doves north of their normal range has been noted on numerous occasions. Among these records are California, a specimen at Escondido, about September 25, 1911, one “heard” at Needles (Stephens, 1903), and one seen at Santa Barbara, November 8, 1922; Washington, one taken at Puyallup, November 11, 1907; British Columbia, two seen and one taken at Sherringham Point, Vancouver Island, in July, 1918; Colorado, one shot in the Wet Mountains in September, 1899; Texas, the most northwestern record being a specimen at Kerrville, November 25, 1910; Louisiana, one of a pair taken at Venice, about November 20, 1910, and Grand Isle, May, 1894, and August, 1895; Mississippi, one in Jackson County, on November 13, 1915; Alabama, one taken at Point Clear, about December 23, 1916, one taken at Daphne, about December 2, 1916, and another, also in Baldwin County, exact date and locality unknown (A. H. Howell, 1928); Florida, three specimens at Key West on November 14, 1888, November 20, 1893, and November 28, 1895, Kissimmee, November, 1896, and one taken near Orlando in the winter of 1908: 9; Georgia, a specimen at Hoboken, January 6, 1917; and Maine, one taken at Lincoln, November 5, 1921.

Egg dates: Texas: 108 records, March 30 to July 14; 54 records, May 12 to 29. Arizona: 68 records, April 2 to August 2; 34 records, May 18 to June 2. Mexico: 20 records, April 20 to August 5; 10 records, May 18 to June 20.

WESTERN WHITE-WINGED DOVE [Current A.O.U. = White-winged Dove]


The name mearnsi was applied to the white-winged dove of the Southwestern United States and Mexico by Robert Ridgway (1915), who described it as “similar to ill, a. asiatica but averaging decidedly larger, and coloration paler and grayer, the fo~eneck and chest light drab to hair brown instead of fawn color, the back, ~tc., hair brown to deep drab.”

In the regions where I have met with the white-winged dove, I found it to be one of the commonest and decidedly the noisiest of birds. Its monotonous cooing and hooting notes were heard almost constantly in the chaparral and forests, especially early in the morning and toward night.

We found it very abundant in certain parts of southern Arizona. We camped for several days on the edge of the mesquite forest, on the Santa Cruz River, south of Tucson, where we were lulled to sleep at night, or awakened in the morning, with the monotonous notes of the white-winged doves ringing in our ears. They were most noisy at, morning and evening, but could be heard at all hours of the day and sometimes during the night. These doves were also common in nearly all the canyons, and a few were found in the more fertile valleys of the San Pedro River.

Harry S. Swarth (1920) says:

Throughout the valleys of southern Arizona the white-winged dove, or Sonora gigeon as it is generally known, is an abundant summer visitor. Mesquite-grown bottom lands form the favorite breeding resort, and It Is there or in cultivated fields that the white-wings are to be found in numbers. Anywhere on the desert, however, one is apt to see them, passing overhead, feeding, or resting on the giant cactus or in the shade of the thicker bushes. They also invade the towns to some extent, and may frequently be observed in garden shrubbery or perched on fences or electric wires.

Spring: Although Major Bendire (1892) found it partially resident throughout the year in the vicinity of Tucson, Ariz., and observed it during every month of winter, they were not so abundant then as in summer, many having migrated. Mr. Swarth (1920) says: “The birds, as a rule, arrive in southern Arizona about the third week of April. Gilman gives the date of arrival at Sacaton as April 20. while I found a bird sitting on eggs near Tucson as early as April 13.”

M. French Gilman (1911) writes:

Their coming is coincident with the ripening of the berries of the wild jujube, Zizyphus lycloides, upon which they feed greedily as long as the fruit lasts, consuming both rifle and green. They come in such great numbers that the wheat fields suffer and the loss is 2oursiderable. The Indians try to frighten them away from the fields but do not hunt them. Probably they figure that ammunition would count up more on the debit side than would the wheat destroyed.

Referring to southern California, W. Leon Dawson (1923) says:

The White-winged Dove is a tardy migrant, and its numerous arrival in late April Is Quite conspicuous. Flight is conducted at low levels, and occupancy is effected by a progressive invasion rather than by a sudden coup. The birds troop across the roads In endless desultory columns, or else rise hastily from a wayside snack; or, most likely of all, gather upon exposed branches to mark with curious wooden detachment tire passing of the intruder.

Courtship: Dr. Alexander Wetmore (1920) has published a most interesting account of his extensive studies of the white-winged dove, from which I shall quote freely; regarding courtship, he writes:

In displaying before females males had a curious habit or pose in which they raised the toil high arid tilted the body forward. At the same time the tail was spread widely and then closed with a quick flash of the prominent black and white markings. In the breeding colonies males at intervals flew out with quick, full strokes of the spread wings, rising until they were thirty or forty feet in the air. The wings were then set stiffly with the tips decurved, while the birds scaled around above the mesquites in a great circle that often brought them to their original perches. The contrasted markings of the wings showed brilliantly during this flight and the whole was most striking and attractive. In the cooler part of the morning males performed constantly In this manner over the rookery.

Mrs. Florence M. Bailey (1923) describes it as follows:

One was seen displaying as he gave his cali, as is described by Bendire. Instead of inhaling his chest pouter-pigeon style, as is done by the Band-tails, he puffed out his throat, and, as if about to launch into the air, threw up his wings as some of the ducks do in courtship display of the speculum, showing the handsome white wing crescent; and at the same time curved up the rounded fan tail so that Its white thumb-mark band showed strikingly: all this as he gave his loud emotional call: Kroo-Icroo’-kroo-kru’. A rather distant answering call suggested that he was displaying for a prospective mate. Display actually before a femnie was witnessed a week later by Mrs. Nicholson when I was down in the valley. When the call was given without the emotional display It lapsed almost to monotony, being heard at camp all through the day. Some of the notes were heavily mouthed, while others were muffled. The noise of the flight was volitionai. One that I saw, puffed out his chest and started with whacking wings, soaring around, wings and tall spread; but shortly afterivard it or another bird was seen flying by silently.

Nesting: Doctor Wetmore’s (1920) account of the nesting habits follows:

On my arrival In June I found them breeding In pairs scattered through the cultivated lands or the open desert, or congregated In large colonies in suitable mesquite mon tea near the GAla River. One or two pairs were found at intervals In cottonwoods beside roads or near ranch houses, but the greatest Interest centered in tire large congregations to be found in suitable tracts of mesqultes. These rookeries were often of considerable extent. One located three and one-half miles south of Arlington extended over an area a quarter of a mile square, while another three miles beyond occupied a grove nearly half a mile wide and an equal distance in length. The birds maintained regular flights across country and gathered in flocks to feed, so that they were conspicuous figures in the bird life of the region. It was difficult to estimate the number present, as they were scattered about in dense groves of mesquites, but it is believed that there were at least two thousand pairs in the largest colony examined. The total number present in the area was large. It appeared that the period for breeding among these birds was somewhat irregular. A part of them evidently began to nest soon after their arrival, as a number that were feeding young were observed on June 6. Others were nest-building on June 17, so that tile entire period of reproduction was somewhat prolonged. In the colonies nests were scattered about irregularly through the mesquites, Sometimes two or three nests were placed In the same tree, or again one pair occupied a tree alone. There was no crowding and apparently the birds, while gregarious, were too truculent to permit close proximity of nests. Often two or three trees, suitable in every way for the primitive needs of these doves, intervened between occupied sites.

In most cases the nest, slight in structure, though usually somewhat larger and bulkier than that of the Mourning Dove, was placed in a mesquite, though a few were observed on the desert in palo verdes. Nests were built on inclined living limbs where forking of small branches gave a firm, broad support. The site varied from six to twenty feet from the ground, with about eight feet as an average height. In most of those that were examined the structure was composed of dead twigs of the mesquite, small in diameter, and from six to ten Inches long. For the inner layers small twigs were chosen that had been dead for some time, so that the spines, abundant on mesquite limbs, crumbled at a touch and caused no discomfort to the brooding bird or to the young. The nest was flat and had merely enough depression to receive the eggs that often were visible through the loosely interlaced twigs at the sides.

Gilinan (1911), who has had extensive experience with this dove, says:

Nests are always, as far as my observation goes, placed in trees or shrubs at varying distances from the ground. The average height was ten feet and extremes ranged from four to twenty-five feet. The only nest as low as four feet was built in a mesquite tree and placed on top of an old Thrasher’s nest. This may have been a shiftless bird; but I found several others using old Cactus Wren’s nests as foundation, and one had made use of a deserted Verdin’s home.

In choice of nesting sites the bird shows a decided preference for mesquite, as about 70 per cent of nests noted were in that plant. About 20 per cent were In wiliows, and 3 per cent in cotton~vood, Opuntia fulgida or tree cholla, and Pro8o pie odorata or screw-bean. Baccluz.rts gluten brought up the rear with 1 per cent. The dove is usually very wild on the nest, flying off whenever am proached as close as twenty-five feet. Rarely is the broken-wing play made, though I have seen a few mild attempts at it, and occasionally one will allow an approach as close as fifteen feet to the nest before taking flight.

In Arizona we found the white-winged doves nesting in mesquite and hackberry trees in the mesquite forest; the nests were on horizontal branches, 10 or 12 feet above the ground, and were made entirely of grass, weed stems, and straws; a nest found in the San Pedro Valley was 12 feet from the ground in a large willow.

Eggs: The white-winged dove lays two eggs, very seldom three or only one. Frequently one egg proves to be infertile, resulting in the rearing of only one young. The eggs are elliptical oval or oval in shape, and the shell is smooth but not glossy. Fresh eggs, even after being blown, are often a rich, creamy buff, but this color varies greatly, and many eggs are pale creamy white or nearly pure white; the whitest eggs are probably those that have been incubated longest. The color fades very soon, sometimes within a few days, after the eggs are blown. The measurements of 42 eggs average 31.1 by 23.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 34 by 24, 27.5 by 21.5, and 33.5 by 21 millimeters.

Young: The period of incubation, according to Major Bendire (1892), is about 18 days, in which “the male relieves the female somewhat in these duties, but does not assist to any great extent; he, however, assiduously helps to care for the young.” Apparently only one brood is raised in a season in the northern part of its range, but farther south in Mexico two or more broods may be raised during a longer breeding season.

Doctor Wetmore (1920) writes:

I was of the opinion that males did not aid in incubation, but this I was unable to ascertain with certainty. Occasionally I saw both parents perched on the sides of a nest that contained young, but all birds that were definitely identified while engaged in incubating were females. Each male chose a perch near the nest site, usually from ten to thirty feet away, and remained there on guard while the female was sitting, save for the times required to secure food. Such perches were selected in situations that were well shaded from the direct rays of the sun during the heat of the day, and when not occupied could be readily located by the collection of ordure, often considerable in quantity, on the ground beneath.

The young birds were fed by regurgitation and at the age of four days received solid food in the form of undigested seeds, In addition to the usual diet of pigeon’s milk.” Fledglings left the nest when between three and four weeks old, as nearly as I could ascertain. The first young bird able to fly was noted on June 12, and by June 15 birds of this age were fairly common. These young were still dependent upon their parents for food, and though able to fly well were undeveloped and small. On first leaving the nest they perched about in the mesquites, always seeking shade, but in a few days were often found on the ground, preferably where the soil was sandy. There they walked about in the thin shade of the mesquites, examining bits of sticks and other refuse curiously, often testing such fragments with their bills, or rested quietly, squatting on the earth. In many instances it was found that they were heavily infested with small ticks against whose attacks they seemed inexperienced. No ill results from the presence of these parasites were noted and older birds were free from them.

Plumages: He says further: Young White-winged Doves when first hatched were well covered with long, straggling down, that in color was dull white slightly tinged with buff. This natal down was replaced by secondary feather growth so rapidly that It had disappeared for the great part at the end of the first week. The feather quills that followed the down did not burst until they were quite long as that for a time the young were as grotesque as young cuckoos.

Young birds in juvenal plumage are much like adults, but they are grayer on the back and breast and generally paler; there are faint traces of narrow uale edgings on the mantle; and the throat and sides of the head are whiter. I have seen adults, from Arizona, undergoing a complete molt from August 2 to October 11, and adults, from Jamaica, completing the molt of wings and tail from December 25 to January 19.

Food: Doctor Wetmore (1920) gives the following account of the feeding habits of the white-winged dove:

A purple drupe, one-fourth of an inch In diameter, borne by a spiny shrub (Con delia spatlzulata) was a favorite food at this season and the birds also ate the fruits of the giant cactus as rapidly as they ripened. Various seeds were taken also. Harvesting of grain began in this valley about the first of June and continued until the end of the month. Fields of wheat or barley that had been cut recently were attractive to the White-wings as here they found an al)uadaat source of food. The wheat grown In this region shattered (or shelled out) badly (luring the process of cutting, binding, and shocking, so that kernels of grain were scattered thickly over the fields. Further, there was much additional waste grain from heads matured or stalks too short to be bound that fell to the ground when cut. As may be imagined the Whitewings sought this food supply eagerly. They were gregarious In feedIng as in nesting so that newcomers passing over the grain fields usually decoyed to those already on the ground until many had gathered in one spot. The grain stubble was cut high and afforded the feeding bands shelter, as the doves were short in leg and walked about with the body bent forward. It was often the case that not a bird was seen in looking across a field of wheat stubble, though several hundred might be feeding there under shelter of the wheat stalks and the low levees thrown up to direct the flow of the water used in irrigation while the crop was being grown. White-wings were wary and easily alarmed while feeding. At times I crawled up under shelter of weeds to watch them at close range. If one of the feeding birds happened to observe some slight motion, the heads of all were up in an instant and aU remained motionless, while in a minute or so they usually flew hastIly in sudden alarm. Where they were shot at they became even more wary. Alter feeding, little groups of White-wings often flew up to rest for a time in the shelter of cottonwoods or mesquites.

Occasionally, when feeding in fields where wheat had not been shocked a dove hopped up on one of the bundles of bound grain and pecked at the heads of wheat, choosing, preferably, those that were short so that they were firmly held by the twine. Or a flock of half a dozen dropped down on a shock of wheat and fed on the cap sheaves for a few minutes. Usually, however, the birds preferred to feed In the more secure cover of the stubble and confine their attention to the abundant waste grain as long as this was available. When wheat was not threshed within a short time after It was cut these doves were said to cause serious damage to the grain In the shock. This was particularly true in the case of isolated fields that remained after the surrounding crops had been removed. For this reason the White-winged Doves were In bad repute among many of the ranchers.

Various kinds of waste grain, seeds, berries, mesquite beans, and insects are mentioned by other observers. Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1914) found 33 watermelon seeds and a muskmelon seed in one crop. Behavior: Doctor Wetmore (1920) writes:

Combats among males were frequent, but these were bloodless battles, as the birds tuerely flapped at one another uttering guttural notes, or when near at hand struck quickly with one wing. Often one male was at much trouble to drive all others from some trees, and once I observed one hustle away a pair of Mourning Doves that chanced to intrude upon his domain.

White-winged Doves start in flight with a loud clapping of wings that is accompanied by a whistling noise. When the birds are ~vell under way their passage, while swift and direct, is noiseless. The sound at the start resembles that made by domestic pigeons. The White-wing, like certain tropical doves (for example the White-headed and Scaled Pigeons) in perching in cottonwoods or other trees ~vith dense foliage, usually alights among clumps of leaves on the higher outer branches rather than on dead limbs or in open situations such as those chosen by Mourning Doves. So well did the birds conceal themselves that after I had seen half a dozen fly into such a tree, it was not unusual to be unable to pick out a single dove in spite of their large size. In the mesquite they followed the same practice in perching, so that they were often observed merely as silhouettes through the thin foliage. When perched in trees they remained quiet save when they were calling.

Voice: Wetmore also gives, the best impression of the remarkable vocal performances of these doves, as follows:

In early morning White-winged Doves began to call soon after day break, and when the sun appeared above the horizon were heard cooing in every direction. At this period of the day many males came out to rest on dead limbs in openings in the mesquite monics, or flew to snore distant perches in mesquites or cottonwoods where they basked in the warm rays of the sun. Others chose perches in the tops of living mesquites where the thin foliage did not cast an appreciable shade. In mid-forenoon when the heat became oppressive they retired again to protected stations. Males had two distinct songs, that were given without apparent choice. One of these efforts may be represented by the syllables who hoo who lioo-oo’. The first three notes were gruff and abrupt, the last one strongly accented and somewhat prolonged. The other song, longer and mere complicated, may be noted as who, hoe, wheo, heo, hoe-nh,’ hoo-heo-ah’, who-eeL In this case the song was sel)arated in five parts. The first section was short and low, the second louder and almost merged with the third; the third and fourth were more musical than the others and were strongly accented on the last syllable, while the last part was lower and was more or less slurred. At times the (loves gave one or the other of these two songs in repetition for long intervals, or again alternated them rapidly. The longer song was mere varied and pleasing to the ear as the other frequently was given in a burring, guttural tone that was often unpleasant. In addition to these songs males uttered a low, querulous, muttered note resembling qach queh-eh that served as a call to the fomnale, or was given when squabbling with other males. No females were observed in tile act of cooing and I was unable to ascertain their notes. Although males did not coo in unison the effect produced by hundreds of them calling at the same time was remarkable. Save for one or two birds that might chance to be near at hand, their notes seemed to come from a distance, and were so blended that it was dimcult to pick out individual songs. In a large colony the volume of sound produced was so great that it carried readily for a distance of a mile and yet the tone produced was so soft that it was not deafening when near at hand. On the contrary the whole formed an undertone, continuous, and to my ear not unpleasing, that did not intrude sharply on the senses, of so vague a nature that faculties perceptive to sound soon became accustomed to it, so that through constant repetition It might pass unnoted. Although it filled the air with the same effect as that produced by the nishing of water, other sounds, the song of a Redwing or a Lucy’s Warbler, the cooing of a Mourning Dove or the stamping of a horse, were heard through it clearly even when such noises originated at some distance. The effect as a whole was most remarkable and, once experienced, lingers long In memory.

Major Bendire (1892) says:

Their call notes are varied, much more so than those of any other species of this family found with us; they are sonorous, pleasing, and rather musical. On this account the natives keep many of them as cage birds, calling them Paloma cantaef or, Singing Dove. They soon become very gentle and reconciled to captivity, feeding readily out of one’s hand and allowing themselves to he handled without fear.

One of their most characteristic call notes hears a close resemblance to the first efforts of a young Cockerel when attempting to crow, and this call is frequently uttered and in various keys. While thus engaged the performer usually throws his wings upward and forward above the head and also spreads his tall slightly. Some other notes may be translated into “cook for you,” or ~’ cook for two,” “cook-kara-coo,” besides a variety of calls, one of these a querulous harsh one, resembles somewhat the syllables “ch~k-hgii.”

The commonest note, as I recorded it, might be written “who cooks for you,” and I notice that several others have so recorded it. Swarth (1920) very aptly remarks that. it is “given with rather insulting emphasis.” To my ear it sounds rather like a soft rendering of one of the common notes of the barred owl. Its monotonous repetition becomes rather tiresome, but it is an impressive performance, which once heard can never be forgotten. Dawson (1923) says:

In uttering this note the bird throws his head well forward and closes his eyes ecstatically (thereby disclosing a livid blue eyelid), but he does not open his beak. In defiance of all the masters, he sings through his nose. The effect is charming, it must be admitted, but one can not help wondering what the sound would be if only the bird would ‘ sing out.” Chanticleer’s effort would surely pale beside it.

Fall: Gilman (1911) writes:

As soon as the young are grown both they and the parents congregate in large flocks and fly from feeding ground to watering place, thus affording a good chance at wing shooting. One evening in twenty minutes I counted over 700 fly past a bridge over a small Irrigating canal.

The gunner, in these birds, has a good test of his skill, as they fly very rapidly with seemingly little effort, and the rate of speed is hard to estimate. They will carry off a large load of shot, too, and all things considered are a fine game bird.

Besides the danger from gunner, the Cooper Hawk is a menace, feeding often on the fat pigeon. I have seen a Marsh Hawk after a White-wing with a broken wing, but do not think any but wounded birds are ever attacked by this species.

Along in August the big flocks begin to grow less, the birds probably scattering out and seeking feeding grounds more distant from the breeding grounds. Toward the first of September they begin to thin out in earnest and by the 15th of the month very few are seen. Individuals may linger a little longer, as In 1909 I saw one as late as October 12, and In 1910 the last seen was on September 25. A few lingered on a sorghum field up till September 10 of this year, but were not seen any later.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook