Doves are wonderful birds to watch, ideal for beginning birders because they can be easy to find and identify, and are frequent backyard guests as well. Four different dove species are regular residents in Utah County – have you seen them all?
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
The common pigeon, these are the largest doves in Utah County and the easiest to find. They are frequently seen near underpasses along I-15, and in many parking lots or near taller buildings. Rock pigeons are easily recognized by their overall gray plumage, wide dark wing bars and the iridescent patch on the sides of their necks. These doves don’t often visit backyards, but they may show up at ground feeding areas where there is plenty of spilled seed to share.
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
A large dove, these birds are relatively recent arrivals in Utah, just taking up residence in the past few years. They have established themselves quickly, however, and can be quickly recognized by their light but plain plumage, dark wingtips and the black and white half-collar on the back of their necks. In flight, their tails show white corners. Eurasian collared-doves will visit feeders for mixed seed and sunflower seeds, and they often travel in sizeable flocks.
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
These are one of the most familiar backyard birds, and are common all over Utah County. Smaller than our other doves, they can be recognized by their long, pointed tails and the black spots on their backs and wings. Their plumage is a tan-pink color, and is slightly lighter on the underside. When spread, the tail shows white on the sides. These birds enjoy seed feeders and will also snack on cracked corn, and they will visit bird baths.
Band-Tailed Pigeon (Patagoienas fasciata)
The rarest of the doves in Utah County, these pigeons have a small population along the eastern Provo bench. They are relatively large, but are darker than other common doves and have a yellow bill with a black tip. Also look for the iridescent, scaly green patch on the back of the neck, with a thin white border at the top. Look for these birds to perch on wires in residential neighborhoods, but be sure you’re looking at the right time – unlike our other doves, these are only summer residents and they migrate south in the fall.
Which of these doves have you seen? Try these tips for attracting doves and you might enjoy them in your backyard!