What kinds of doves can you find in Virginia?
Doves and pigeons (which is what larger doves are typically called) are stocky birds characterized by short necks, short slender bills, and a diet that is heavy on seeds. Due to their apparent peaceful nature, they are popular birds and a common visitor to backyards!
Today, you will learn about 3 types of doves that live in Virginia!
If you’re interested, you may be able to see a Mourning Dove at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂
For each species, I provide some fun facts along with how to identify them by sight OR sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which doves live near you!
The 3 Species of Doves That Live in Virginia:
#1. Mourning Dove
- A mostly grayish dove with large black spots on the wings and a long thin tail.
- Look for pinkish legs, a black bill, and a distinctive blue eye-ring.
- Males and females look the same.
Mourning Dove Range Map
This species is the most common and familiar dove in Virginia.
Look for them perched high up in trees or on a telephone wire near your home. They are also commonly seen on the ground, which is where they do most of their feeding.
Mourning Doves are common visitors to bird feeding stations!
To attract them, try putting out their favorite foods, which include millet, shelled sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, cracked corn, and safflower seeds. Mourning Doves need a flat place to feed, so the best feeders for them are trays or platforms. To be honest, they probably are most comfortable feeding on the ground, so make sure to throw a bunch of food there too.
Mourning Doves are prolific breeders! It’s common for females to have 3 to 6 broods each breeding season. The young only stay in the nest for a maximum of 15 days, but they stay nearby to be fed by their parents for roughly another week. Many people mistakenly think these young doves have fallen out of the nest since they can barely fly, and have no idea that the parents are nearby and still providing food for the hatchling.
It’s common to hear Mourning Doves in Virginia.
Listen for a low “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” In fact, this mournful sound is how the dove got its name! Many people commonly mistake this sound for an owl. (Press PLAY below!)
#2. Rock Pigeon
- A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
- The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty-brown.
Rock Pigeon Range Map
Rock Pigeons are extremely common doves in Virginia, but they are almost exclusively found in urban areas. These birds are what everyone refers to as a “pigeon.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.
Pigeons are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially if there is leftover food lying on the ground. Unfortunately, these birds can become a bit of a nuisance if they visit your backyard in high numbers. Many people find their presence overwhelming and look for ways to keep them away!
These birds are easy to identify by sound. My guess is that you will already recognize their soft, throaty coos. (Press PLAY below)
Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. And because of these facts, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range was.
#3. Eurasian Collared-Dove
- A mostly sandy brown bird with a long, square-tipped tail.
- As the name suggests, look for a black collar on the back of the neck.
Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Map
Eurasian Collared-Doves are invasive to Virginia.
Unfortunately, somebody introduced them to the Bahamas in the 1970s, and since then, they have rapidly spread. In fact, their population is still spreading!
One of the reasons that these doves colonized here so quickly is due to their comfort level with humans. They have thrived being around bird feeders and in urban and suburban areas. It’s common to see them on the ground or platform feeders eating grains and seeds.
Listen for a “koo-KOO-kook” song, which is given by both sexes. The middle syllable is longer than the first and last one. Males sing louder when defending their territory or searching for a mate.
How do you tell them apart from Mourning Doves?
At first glance, Eurasian Collared-Doves look very similar to Mourning Doves. Here’s how to tell them apart:
- Mourning Doves are smaller and have black dots on their wings.
- Eurasian Collared-Doves are larger and have a black crescent around their neck.
Which of these doves have you seen before in Virginia?
Leave a comment below!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!
To learn more about birds in Virginia, check out these other guides: