7 Doves (& Pigeons) That Live In California!
What kinds of doves can you find in California?
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 7 types of doves that live in California!
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!
To learn more about birds in California, check out these other guides:
The 7 Species of Doves That Live in California:
#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 California.
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 California.
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 California, 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 California.
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.
#4. White-winged Dove
- A pale grayish-brown dove with a white stripe on the edge of the wing.
- Short, square-tipped tail.
- Distinctive black mark on their cheek.
White-winged Dove Range Map
White-winged Doves have adapted well to the presence of humans, and they are commonly found in cities and backyards in California. They readily visit bird feeding stations that offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, milo, and cracked corn.
Like other dove species, White-winged Doves have a few interesting abilities:
- When nestlings are born, the parents feed them something known as “crop milk.” This secretion is regurgitated from the lining of the esophagus.
- Pigeons and doves can drink water while their head is down. They don’t need to look skyward to swallow, which is rare among birds.
Males sing to attract females and make a series of hooting coos, which sounds like they are saying, “who cooks for you.” Many times, the final coo is longer than the rest.
#5. Band-tailed Pigeon
- A large dove with grayish wings and back. Underparts are purple-gray.
- Thin, yellow bill with a dark tip.
- Look for a white bar on the back of their neck, which sits above a patch of greenish iridescent feathers. This feature should help you distinguish this dove from a Rock Pigeon.
If you see one Band-tailed Pigeon, then you should expect to see many more! These doves spend most of their time traveling in large groups, which can include hundreds of birds.
Band-tailed Pigeon Range Map
Naturally, look for these doves in California in mature coniferous or mixed forests. But they have adapted well to people and can be found in wooded suburban areas visiting backyard bird feeders. In addition to seeds, these doves also eat a lot of berries and fruit!
Band-tailed Pigeons can be hard to see since they spend much of their time at the tops of large trees. You may have more luck listening for them while walking through the woods.
Males produce soft, deep, slow coos that rise slightly in pitch. Some people think they sound familiar to an owl hooting.
#6. Inca Dove
- Compared to other dove species, they are small and slender with a long, narrow tail.
- The outer edges of their feathers are dark, which gives them the appearance that they have scales!
Inca Dove Range Map
These doves generally stay away from forests and are found in open woodlands, deserts, scrublands, suburbs, parks, and urban areas. They are often seen on the ground foraging for seeds.
Inca Doves are not shy of humans and are common backyard visitors. Try using tray feeders or spread food on the ground for them. Their favorite foods include millet, cracked corn, and shelled sunflower seeds.
If you can’t find an Inca Dove in California, you can always try listening for one. These birds produce a low, mournful coo that sounds like they are saying “no hope.” This call is repeated over and over.
These birds have an interesting way of keeping warm. Lots of doves come together in a communal roost and will stack on top of each other in a pyramid formation, which can include up to 12 birds and three levels high!
#7. Common Ground Dove
- These doves are small, being only slightly larger than a sparrow!
- They have a plain grey-brown back. Underparts have a pinkish tint to them.
- Small head with a scaled pattern on their breast and neck. Dark spots on the wings.
Common Ground Dove Range Map
Common Ground Doves are typically easy to find in California. Look for them feeding on the ground beneath bird feeders, cleaning up the grains and other seeds that fall from above.
These doves primarily nest on the ground! Simple nests are built lined with a few types of grass, weeds, and other plant matter. Being on the ground, they can make an easy meal for many different predators. Their primary defense is to blend into their surroundings or hiding in thick vegetation.
Common Ground Doves are relatively vocal. They can be heard at all times of the day at any time in the year. Listen for a repeated, soft, high-pitched coo, with a rising inflection.
Which of these doves have you seen before in California?
Leave a comment below!
The range maps below 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!