Kentucky, a state renowned for its rolling bluegrass hills, horse racing tradition, and scenic beauty, is also home to the gentle and melodious doves. These birds, with their soothing coos and graceful presence, have found a place amidst the picturesque landscapes, dense woodlands, and rural charm of the Bluegrass State. In our exploration of doves in Kentucky, we’ll uncover the types of doves you can encounter, their intriguing behaviors, and their significance in the state’s natural world. Whether you’re an avid birder or simply curious about Kentucky’s avian inhabitants, let’s embark on a journey to discover the world of doves in Kentucky.
Types of Doves in Kentucky:
- Mourning Dove
- Eurasian Collared-Dove
- Rock Pigeon
- Passenger Pigeon
- White-winged Dove
- Inca Dove
- Common Ground-Dove
- Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
- Lifespan: 2-5 years
- Size: 9-13 inches
- Native to: Southern Canada to central Mexico
The Mourning Dove is predominantly gray in color and possesses unique features including sizable black spots on its wings, an elongated slender tail, pinkish legs, a black beak, and a prominent blue ring around its eye. Interestingly, males and females of this species have the same appearance.
In Kentucky, the Mourning Dove is not only common but also quite familiar. Frequently, you can observe them perched at elevated positions in trees or on telephone wires in the vicinity of your residence. They are also commonly sighted on the ground, where they primarily engage in feeding activities.
Mourning Doves are commonly observed at bird feeding stations, where they often visit for food. To attract them, consider offering their favorite foods, which include millet, shelled sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, cracked corn, and safflower seeds. These doves prefer flat feeding surfaces, so trays or platforms make excellent feeders. They are quite comfortable feeding on the ground as well, so providing food there is a good idea.
These doves are highly prolific in their breeding habits. Female Mourning Doves frequently produce 3 to 6 broods during each breeding season. Although the young doves spend a maximum of 15 days in the nest, they remain in close proximity to their parents, who continue to feed them for about another week. It’s a common misconception for people to think that these young doves have fallen out of the nest, as they can barely fly. However, they may not realize that their parents are nearby, ensuring their sustenance.
Regarding their vocalizations, Mourning Doves are renowned for their unique low cooing sound, which can be described as “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” This mournful sound is the origin of the dove’s name and is sometimes confused with the call of an owl by many residents of Kentucky.
- Scientific name: Columba livia
- Lifespan: 6 years
- Size: 11-13 inches
- Native to: Europe North Africa and India, it now lives in wild or semi-wild conditions in cities all over the world, including most of North America
The Rock Pigeon is a plump bird known for its small head, short legs, and thin bill. While the typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars, their plumage can vary significantly. It’s not uncommon to see pigeons with all-white or rusty-brown feathers.
In Kentucky, Rock Pigeons are extremely common, but you’ll primarily find them in urban areas. These birds are commonly referred to as “pigeons.” You’ve likely seen them in large flocks gathering in city parks, hoping to find birdseed or leftover food.
Rock Pigeons are quite easily attracted to bird feeders, particularly if there’s leftover food on the ground. However, their high numbers can sometimes make them a bit of a nuisance in your backyard. A lot of individuals might feel overwhelmed by their presence and seek methods to deter them.
When it comes to identifying Rock Pigeons, their distinctive soft, throaty cooing sounds are quite recognizable.
Rock Pigeons have a well-documented history of interaction with humans. There is evidence from Egyptian hieroglyphics that indicates the domestication of these birds began more than 5,000 years ago. Due to this long history, scientists aren’t entirely certain about their original range.
- Scientific name: Streptopelia decaocto
- Lifespan: 3 years
- Size: 12-14 inches
- Native to: Bay of Bengal region (India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar
The Eurasian Collared-Dove is primarily a sandy brown bird with a distinctive long, square-tipped tail. As its name suggests, you can identify it by the black collar on the back of its neck.
In Kentucky, Eurasian Collared-Doves are considered invasive. Regrettably, in the 1970s, an individual introduced them to the Bahamas, and since that time, their numbers have increased quickly. They continue to spread even today.
One reason for their rapid colonization is their comfort around humans. They have thrived in proximity to bird feeders and in urban and suburban areas. It’s common to spot them on the ground or platform feeders, where they feed on grains and seeds.
When it comes to their song, listen for a “koo-KOO-kook” sound, which both males and females produce. Notably, their song has a distinct pattern where the middle syllable is longer than the first and last ones. Male doves often sing louder when they are defending their territory or trying to attract a mate. To distinguish Eurasian Collared Doves from Mourning Doves, there are some key differences. Mourning Doves are smaller in size and feature black dots on their wings, whereas Eurasian Collared-Doves are larger and have a distinctive black crescent-shaped collar around their necks.
- Scientific name: Zenaida asiatica
- Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Size: 11 in
- Native to: Southwestern United States through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
Now, turning our attention to the White-winged Dove, this bird is characterized by its pale grayish-brown plumage, and it stands out due to a noticeable white stripe along the edges of its wings. It also features a short, square-tipped tail and a noticeable black mark on its cheek.
White-winged Doves have adapted quite well to human presence, making them a common sight in cities and backyards throughout Kentucky. They readily frequent bird feeding stations that offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, milo, and cracked corn as food options.
Similar to other dove species, White-winged Doves have some interesting characteristics. When their nestlings are born, the parents feed them something called “crop milk,” which is a secretion regurgitated from the lining of the esophagus. Additionally, pigeons and doves have the unique ability to drink water while their heads are down, meaning they don’t need to tilt their heads upward to swallow, a trait uncommon among birds.
In their courtship rituals, male White-winged Doves sing to attract females. They produce a series of hooting coos, which can sound like they are saying, “Who cooks for you.” Often, the final coo in their sequence is longer than the rest.
- Scientific name: Columbina Inca
- Lifespan: 8 years
- Size: 6.5–9.1 in
- Native to Southwestern United States and in northern Central America
The Inca Dove is relatively small and slender compared to other dove species, featuring a long and narrow tail. What sets them apart visually is the dark outer edges of their feathers, which give them a scale-like appearance.
These doves tend to avoid forests and are commonly found in open woodlands, deserts, scrublands, suburbs, parks, and even urban areas. They frequently forage for seeds on the ground.
Inca Doves are not particularly shy around humans and are often seen visiting backyards. To attract them, using tray feeders or scattering food on the ground can be effective. They have a preference for foods like millet, cracked corn, and shelled sunflower seeds.
If you’re having trouble spotting an Inca Dove in Kentucky, you can listen to their distinctive call. These birds produce a low, mournful coo that sounds like they are repeating the phrase “no hope” over and over.
In terms of keeping warm, Inca Doves have an interesting behavior. During communal roosts, many doves come together and stack on top of each other in a pyramid-like formation. These roosts can include up to 12 birds and stack up to three levels high, which helps them conserve heat during cold nights.
- Scientific name: Columbina passerina
- Lifespan: 7 years
- Size: 15 to 18 cm
- Native to: Southern United States, parts of Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America
The Common ground dove is a small bird, just a bit larger than a sparrow. They have a plain grey-brown back with underparts that exhibit a pinkish tint. Their small heads feature a scaled pattern on the breast and neck, along with dark spots on the wings.
These doves are commonly found in Kentucky, often seen foraging on the ground beneath bird feeders where they pick up fallen grains and seeds.
Interestingly, Common Ground Doves choose to nest on the ground itself. They construct simple nests lined with various types of grass, weeds, and other plant materials. However, nesting on the ground makes them vulnerable to various predators. For self-defense, they depend on camouflaging themselves within their environment and taking shelter in thick vegetation. When it comes to communication, Common Ground Doves are quite expressive and can be heard throughout the day, all year round. They produce a repetitive, gentle, high-pitched cooing noise with a rising intonation.
Final Thoughts on Doves in Kentucky
Doves in Kentucky bring a touch of grace and tranquility to the state’s diverse and captivating landscapes. These gentle birds, with their soothing coos and elegant presence, are more than just avian residents; they are an integral part of Kentucky’s rich wildlife tapestry. Through our exploration of the various aspects of doves in the Bluegrass State, from the species you can encounter to their unique behaviors, it becomes evident that they hold a special place in the hearts of bird enthusiasts and nature admirers.