Image: Richard Ditch, 2005 [larger view].
Date Time Original: 2005:03:26 18:18:03
Exposure Time: 1/25
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Aww! This bird just looks small and harmless, like a baby bird that’s lost its momma (more about that below). That said, I’m at a momentary loss as to how I’d go about identifying it if I didn’t know the species well already. I can’t see much of the tail, so let’s give in and look at the head: even with the feathers raised, the head is small for the size of the bird, the eye beady, and the bill weak and undistinguished. The short, sturdy pink feet are also a good clue that we’re looking at a pigeon.
Once we’ve got it to family, it becomes much easier. A closer look at the tail shows that it is long, too long for even Ruddy Ground-Dove (which would be much plainer than this bird, with just a few spots and streaks on the wing and scapulars), and that there is some white on the outer rectrix. It’s all falling into place now, and the extensive barring and edging on virtually every feather of this bird leads to the correct identification, Inca Dove.
This is a species notoriously on the march. Inca Doves did not arrive in Arizona until around 1870, and the past couple of decades have seen the species establish a wide vagrancy range across North America, its breeding distribution spreading as well. Most recent records from outside its core range are very well documented, but not a few reports actually refer to Mourning Doves. Yes, Mourning Doves: juveniles of that eminently familiar species can look surprisingly unfamiliar, heavily barred and spotted, and often noticeably smaller than the attending adults; these birds (jestingly known as “Notaninca Doves”) are in fact much larger than true Inca Doves, with heavy face patterns, no rufous in the wing, pointed rather than square tails, and at least some black teardrops in the wing coverts. While the wings of Mourning Doves whistle on take-off, Inca Doves produce a dry rattling, like tiny paper sacks being vigorously shaken.
Review all mystery birds to date.