What is a White-Winged Dove?

S. Ashraf

The white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica, is a medium-size dove that resembles a pigeon in appearance. On average, the adult birds are about 11.8 inches (30 cm) long, weigh about 6 ounces (170 g) and have a wing span of a little less than 20 inches (50 cm). In appearance, the white-winged dove is grayish brown and has a distinctive bright white stripe of wing feathers, about 0.4 inches (1 cm) wide, which is visible when its wings are folded. No other dove in the western hemisphere has this white striping. The sexes have similar markings, with males and females both having a teardrop-shaped ring of pale blue skin around the eyes.

One environment that white-winged doves can occupy is the desert.
One environment that white-winged doves can occupy is the desert.

Geographically, the white-winged dove lives mostly in semitropical and tropical areas. It can be found from the Caribbean and Central America northward through the southwestern United States. Most white-winged doves migrate according to the seasons, preferring to move south for the winter. Those that live in the southern portions of their range, however, will stay there all year. The white-winged dove has been expanding its range northward in response to increased human activity and the growth of suburbs, which have led to more feeding areas for this bird.

White-winged doves eat barley.
White-winged doves eat barley.

As a habitat, the white-winged dove likes both semi-open and open areas. Its preferred habitat is the low trees and dense thickets of open country, but it also can be found in desert landscapes of cacti and scrub. Owing to the increased presence of humans, it is at home in both residential areas and in agricultural fields.

Its feeding habits can make the white-winged dove something of a pest in areas where there are farms. Flocks of white-winged doves will descend on grain crops such as corn, barley and wheat to feed. These birds also eat fruit, seeds and even ornamental plants.

Breeding season is roughly spring through late summer. Males establish their nesting territories and, after mating has occurred, females select a site for the nest from within this territory. Nests are built, usually in tree branches, in two to five days from materials such as grass or twigs brought to the female by the male. Some species of white-winged doves nest in large colonies, but others nest only as isolated pairs.

Usually, two eggs are laid, and the parents take shifts to incubate the eggs. It takes about 14 days for the eggs to hatch. Male white-winged doves feed the chicks until they are about one month old.

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