Foam Lake Birding No. 107

No. 107
The deep freeze that hit most of the continent did not miss us. Temperatures have been abnormally low with several days of frost and with daytime highs in the single digits (Celsius). Throw a heavy fog into the mix and we have a recipe for disaster. Freeways were closed and by morning houses and palm trees were covered with ice. As the day progressed and temperatures rose ice falling off palm trees was a real concern. As a result birding has been slow to say the least. On the bright side, I have not had to shovel anything.
For birders one of the big differences between Foam Lake and Weslaco is that there are many more species of pigeons down south. Foam Lake has three species of pigeons; the Rock Pigeon, the Mourning Dove and the Eurasian Collared Dove. There are eight species of pigeons down here one of which (the Inca Dove) I covered in Article No. 72. In this article I will cover two doves – the Common and Ruddy Ground Doves.
The Common Ground Dove, as its name implies, is quite common across the southern US although its numbers have been decreasing in recent years. The Ruddy Ground Dove is very similar to the Common but, as its name implies, it is ruddier or redder especially the male. Both species are very small – about the size of buffed up House Sparrows. Because of its rarity, sighting a Ruddy in the US is a highly sought after prize for birders although it is very common farther south in Mexico.
Although both species can and do alight in trees they are most often seen in pairs or small flocks feeding on the ground (again, as their names imply). At close range or with binoculars the dark spots on both species’ wings can be seen easily and are very similar to the spots on the Mourning Dove’s wings. These spots help to distinguish the Ground Doves from the similar and very common Inca Dove which has no such spots. I have seen only one Ruddy Ground Dove in the US, but many Common Ground Doves and do not recall ever hearing one. Apparently both species make a soft two note call.
This week’s photos were taken several years apart; the Common Ground Dove was shot in Texas in 2006, the Ruddy Ground Dove was taken in Arizona in 2008. The Arizona shot is of wild birds in the great outdoors and is not staged in any way. The picture was taken at 4:00PM on a cold but sunny 10C day on a ranch on the Red Rock Indian Reservation. The eight Inca Doves and lone Ruddy Ground Dove (far left) were huddled together on the concrete base of a water pump facing west trying to stay warm. Cute! The picture is priceless. Enjoy.

John Senkiw