Foam Lake Birding No. 184

No. 184
            We are in that time of year that I refer to as the "doldrums of birding".  The summer residents and most of the transients are gone south; the winter birds have not moved here yet; even permanent residents like woodpeckers and nuthatches have not left the rural areas and moved into towns which they will soon do.  So for the time being, it is Chickadees, House Sparrows, the odd Junco, a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and a very confused and very dead Ruffed Grouse.
            The Ruffed Grouse is our only woodland "wild chicken" as it were (see Art. No. 96).  Once in a while in the fall they invade urban areas where they seem to pick up a bad case of "stupid" for lack of a better term.  Here they become very tame to the point they have to be shooed away otherwise they just stand there and look at you with a blank look in their eyes.  Years back when we lived in Wishart, one fall when there was snow on the ground, a Ruffed Grouse stood in our doorstep and would not let our girls into the house when they came home from school.  I had to chase the grouse away.  It moved to the backyard to our patio and spent the next three weeks or so sleeping right up against the glass patio door every night.  During this same period one of our neighbours had a grouse fly right through her living room picture window.  When the startled neighbour came to the living room to investigate there was the dying grouse in the middle of the floor amid all kinds of glass.  Almost the same thing happened to me several weeks ago.  I was working at the dining room table and looked up just in time to see a very large bird come barrelling straight at me.  It hit the window with a tremendous wallop startling everybody in the house especially me.  Fortunately, the window did not break but sadly the grouse was killed instantly.  Theories abound as to why this happens but the most plausible is that when there is a very successful hatch the young have to disperse and there is really no place for them to go so they head for the towns.  Being young and not very wise they end up in places unfamiliar to them causing harm to themselves and town residents alike. 
            A much more pleasant event is the daily visitation of a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves (see Art. No. 50).  They started coming to our yard to the bird baths for drinking water and have continued to do so even though the cold weather has frozen the water.  It is nice to see them walking around in the yard looking for something to eat. 
            The Eurasian Collared Dove is an invasive species from Europe that was successfully introduced into the West Indies from where it flew across to Florida and has spread throughout most of the continent.  It is now here.  It is quite similar to the native Mourning Dove but can be quite easily distinguished from it by the thin black collar on the back of the neck.  Unlike the Mourning Dove the Eurasian Collared Dove is not migratory and can be expected here all year round. 
            There is some confusion as to where the Ringed Turtle Dove fits in to all this.  Older bird books do list it as a distinct species but without much explanation.  Here is the whole scoop as I understand it.  There are only two species of Collared Doves: the Eurasian and African.  They are closely related and very similar to one another with the African being slightly smaller and much paler.  Furthermore, when vocalizing the African has a two note song while the Eurasian has a three note sound.  The Ringed Turtle Dove is nothing more than the domestic version of the African Collared Dove and escaped or released birds have not succeeded in the wild.  At present the name "Ringed Turtle Dove" has been discontinued by ornithologists and replaced by the original "African Collared Dove".
            This week's pictures of the Eurasian Collared Dove were taken in our backyard this spring.