Foam Lake Birding No. 72

No. 72
We have spent four days on the road and are now in Weslaco, TX where the skies are clear and temperatures are in the upper 20sC. The trip down was a little tense in that we drove through the very tail end of one storm and just beat the blizzard that was coming down from Colorado. The weather changed very little from Foam Lake to the middle of Kansas where the fog, clouds, rain and snow showers finally disappeared and the skies cleared.
The birds, as expected, changed with the weather and climate. There were many Snow Buntings, ravens and magpies along the roadsides as was expected. However, there were a few exceptions. Just south of Jamestown, ND we saw about six or seven crows feeding along the roadsides and presumed they were a family unit that did not migrate. Another such exception was the presence of a flock of Horned Larks just south of the Moose Mountains. They usually do not show up in our area until the latter half of February. We also saw a Rough Legged Hawk which was not out of place, but still uncommon. From the snow line southward, there were many geese, ducks, Red Tailed Hawks, Kestrels and Turkey Vultures. When we spotted our first Inca Dove we knew we were in the deep south.
One nice thing about being in this area of the world is the number of wild pigeons/doves that are found here. The different species are: Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, White Winged Dove, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove (rare), White Tipped Dove, Band Tailed Pigeon, White Crowned Pigeon (rare), Red Billed Pigeon (rare) and this week’s featured bird – the Inca Dove.
The Inca Dove is a very common dove of the southern USA, ranging from California to the Gulf of Mexico. At first glance it simply looks like a Mourning Dove. In fact, I had seen many of them before I realized that what I was seeing was an Inca Dove and not a Mourning Dove. However, by paying a little more attention to details, I was able to tell the two apart quite easily. The Inca Dove is much smaller than a Mourning Dove, but in isolation this is of little value. (Where have you heard this before)? Its colouration is such that the bird appears to be covered in grey scales instead of feathers. This characteristic is quite pronounced and can be seen with the naked eye. When taking flight, the wings show a lot of reddish brown and produce a “dry rattle”. Both characteristics are diagnostic.
The Inca Dove’s vocalizations are noticeably different from all other birds and have an interesting story associated with them. When Europeans first arrived in the dry areas of the deep south, they experienced many hardships and dangers including hunger and thirst. During the pioneer’s struggles with the heat, the Inca Dove would be making its monotonous two note call that at times seemed to be taunting them. The bird seemed to be telling them there was “no hope” – a very apt description considering the pioneer’s plight. To this day many bird books describe the Inca Dove’s two note call as “no hope”.
If ever any birders go south, be on the lookout for the Inca Dove. It is a tame and trusting bird that loves to be around people and is common in streets and yards.