Published On: Thu, Feb 12th, 2015

BACKYARD BIRDING IN MERIDA, YUCATAN AND BEYOND: SILENCE OF THE LIMBS?  WHITE-WINGED DOVE

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Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired,” zoologist, photographer, and author explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 55 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her weekly column features anecdotes about birding in Merida and beyond. Contact her: all4birdies@gmail.com All photos and text All rights reserved ©Cherie Pittillo.

White-winged Dove, Zenaida asiatica, Paloma alas blancas (Spanish), Saak pakal (Mayan)

Silence of the limbs...White-winged Doves

Silence of the limbs…White-winged Doves

No, not really. In Merida, the almost constant white noise, or should I say white-winged noise, emanates from the White-winged Dove before sunrise and ends after sunset.

Does the White-winged Dove have white wings? Only marginally. The outer margin of the wing forms a white crescent of feathers. In both sexes blue eye shadow surrounds orange eyes. A Cindy Crawford black beauty mark rests below them. Reddish pink legs and feet look like kinky boots as the colors become more intense during breeding time.

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Blue eye shadow, Cindy Crawford beauty mark of White-winged Dove head

Blue eye shadow, Cindy Crawford beauty mark of White-winged Dove head

Reddish-pink color intensifies in legs and feet during breeding season. Kinky boots.

Reddish-pink color intensifies in legs and feet during breeding season. Kinky boots.

Now that you know how the culprit looks, why is it so noisy?

‘Tis the mating season of the foot long White-winged Dove in the Yucatan from Feb. – August. However, those in my Merida backyard began calling in November.

Listen to two distinct coos from a male: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/45201

One is a perching coo while the other call serves as the advertising coo. Birders translate it to “Who cooks for you?” Since the males call out these hook-up lines, shouldn’t the translation be, “Who looks for you?”

I even like the version by Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, in her song, “Edge of Seventeen” when she sings the White-winged Dove calls Whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo-baby-whoo.

Not only does the dove loudly cry out his pick-up lines, but he signals his intent with several body postures. In one, he perches and lifts his tail up and down several times. Sometimes he fans out his tail on a lift. Yep, he is the original twerker.

 

Once he attracts a female for the lovey-dovey mating, he defends the nesting territory by his call or by physically flailing his wings against an intruder. I understand that part, but once I saw two males wing-slapping each other when they both landed on the ground in the backyard to collect nest material. The nest-under-construction wasn’t close to these duelers.

The mating game of White-winged Dove

The mating game of White-winged Dove

Territorial male White-winged Dove wing slaps intruder

Territorial male White-winged Dove wing slaps intruder

When the male does collect nest material, usually a twig at a time, he gives it to the female architect (?) to build their haphazard-looking nest in a fork of a tree or a limb. Typically the love nest lacks structure even though some scientists call it a bowl or a platform. I’ve found many broken eggs in our backyard that fell through the unreinforced nest bottom.

Male White-winged Dove gathers a twig for nest material for female to construct the nest, more or less.

Male White-winged Dove gathers a twig for nest material for female to construct the nest, more or less.

The female usually lays one-two eggs and the monogamous couple alternate incubation duties. Chicks hatch in about two-three weeks. During the first week, both parents feed the young “crop milk”, a protein and fatty secretion from the lining of the esophagus. One week later, regurgitated seeds supplement the chick diet.

White-winged Dove feeds crop milk to chicks

White-winged Dove feeds crop milk to chicks

In about two more weeks, the young can leave their poorly constructed home. Surprisingly they are able to mate and nest about two-three months after hatching. For that matter, Mom Bird starts another brood within three days after the young leave. In the Yucatan the White-winged Dove can produce two-three broods a season. It seems to me the male receives a lot of “miley-age” from his twerking efforts.

White-winged Dove chicks at nest

White-winged Dove chicks at nest

Although the White-winged Dove primarily eats seeds, grain, and fruit, it consumes small pieces of gravel to pulverize plant material in the gizzard. That’s true grit by the way, not grits. During breeding season it ingests bone fragments it finds in raptor pellets, mammal feces, and snail shells. Those calcium sources aid in both crop milk and egg shell production.

Flock of White-winged Doves gather to eat grits

Flock of White-winged Doves gather to eat grits

In the Yucatan, this common dove is a year round resident with a smaller winter migratory population. In the US it continues to expand its range northward from the Southwest and along the southern coastal states. Stragglers can be found throughout most of the US and into Canada. Their range extends into Mexico, Central America, and West Indies and beyond.

But let’s get back to those sounds. In parts of the US in May, when breeding season is in full swing, calls from a huge flock become a “roar” that can be heard more than three miles away.

Okay, so in comparison, maybe we do experience silence of the limbs.

 

Perk up your ears to listen to nature’s many sounds.

DISCLAIMER: References do not agree on information about this species. Here are my resources: Sal a Pajarear Yucatan, A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, Birds and Reserves of the Yucatan Peninsula, National Geographic  Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Lives of North American Birds, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, http://macaulaylibrary.org/, a website from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/710/articles/introduction http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/white-winged_dove/id http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=172501

http://earbirding.com/blog/archives/3627

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/stevienicks/edgeofseventeen.html

http://www.inherownwords.com/edge.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_of_Seventeen

http://birds.audubon.org/birds/white-winged-dove

* http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Zenaida_asiatica/

http://www.birdinginformation.com/birds/pigeons-and-doves/white-winged-dove/

http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-white-winged-dove.html

 

Mexico Travel Care




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  1. Alinde O'Malley says:

    My own “best friend”, my African Grey, usually chirps “your compadres” as these lovely White Winged Doves (and others) glisten our mornings.

    I so admire not only your photographic skill, but the patience and focus you have to be able to capture such “birdie” elegance. Thanks so much!

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