Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2005-05

Common name:

Common ground-dove

Scientific name: Columbina passerina
Date: 30 Dec 2004
Time: approximately 8:50 - 9:50 am
Length of time observed:  
Age: The dove was an adult male, based on the rich blue and pink tones around the head, neck, and breast.
Sex: [male]
Location: Wilson's Peach & Pecan orchard SW of Hurricane in Washington County, Utah (south of the Hurricane sewage treatment ponds), at first house encountered (west of road) as one enters orchard along the access road from the north.
County: [Washington]
Distance to bird: ["25-30 feet at best"]
Optical equipment: Leica X10 binoculars, Kowa x30 scope
Photos: yes, taken with Nikon D70 digital camera with 300 lens. I will submit my best ones in separate e-mails.
Light Conditions: The dove moved around over the hour or so, on-off, that it was visible, but was usually west of me, so the morning light was usually behind me, offering a very clear light. The day was sunny. At one point the dove flew across the road and was briefly backlit, but even there I was able to get around it so that it was well lit from the side rather than behind.
Detailed description of bird: • Size: tiny dove, size of White-crowned sparrows next to it (though plumper)
• Tail: very short, blackish from above when spread out in flight, with no white seen
• Head: relatively large head for body compared to other Utah doves; light blue crown & nape; pinkish wash to face, extending down to breast, side of neck, and wings; scaling visible on crown and sides of neck
• Bill: base and about 2/3 of bill pink, tip dark
• Wings: when folded, grayish-brown with pink wash and several blackish (irregularly-shaped) spots; no scaling. When flying, chestnut.
• Breast: pinkish wash with scaling in neck area (on sides)
• Back: grayish-brown
• Legs: pink
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Behavior: spent most of time walking and pecking on open ground (mostly gravel driveway), but would fly into trees and across road into piled pallets and irrigation sprinkler wheels when approached (would not allow me to get closer than about 25-30 feet at best). Observed at length.
Habitat: Habitat: pecan orchard next to a residence. The bird spent most of its time on gravel driveways and adjacent open ground, mostly free of vegetation except for tiny vegetation on the order of one inch or less. There were pecan trees as well as some bushes and a pine tree nearby which the dove did fly into when flushed, but would quickly return to the open. There is a pasture nearby to the southeast and various sagebrush-like open areas immediately to the north and east (I did not note the species of plant in those habitats).
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
1. Mourning doves are much larger, smaller-headed (relative to body), have longer, non-blackish tails with prominent white spots, are not scaled, don't have pink bills or chestnut in wings in flight.
2. Inca doves are scaled over much of body, not just head & neck, are smaller-headed (relative to body), have longer tails with prominent white outer retrices, and don't have pink bills. Also, this dove was too richly colored blue and pink to be an Inca dove.
3. Ruddy ground-dove. The bird most similar to a Common ground-dove, though less likely to occur in Utah than the previous two species, is the female Ruddy Ground-dove. This species was eliminated in the field by specifically noting that the dove we saw had clear scaling on the head and sides of neck and a pink base to its bill, which are two definitive differentiating marks between the two species. Neither males nor females of the Ruddy ground-dove have such scaling or pink bills. To further eliminate the possibility of a male of the Ruddy ground-dove, one can note that they are much ruddier than the bird we saw.
4. Plain-breasted ground-doves, though occurring much farther south in Mexico than other Columbina doves and therefore much less likely to show up in Utah, are the next most likely possibility. These, however, are also eliminated by the pink base to the bill and scaling.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have very often encountered this species, and all four of the above-described “possible species”, on my many birding trips to Mexico since 1995, and especially since I began co-leading tours there for Westwings in 1999. As a tour guide, I have had to repeatedly revisit and explain to clients of various skill levels the reasoning (usu. field marks) for why particular Columbina doves we are looking at are of a particular species as opposed to another.
References consulted: While in the field, I used the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America and the National Geographic Society Field guide to the Birds of North America, 3rd Ed.
Description from: from field notes taken at the time of observation.
Observer: David S. Wheeler
Observer's address:  
Observer's e-mail address:  
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Larene Wyss
Date prepared: January 4, 2005
Additional material: Photos:  I took a number of photos of this bird, which I am submitting electronically to the committee through Mark Stackhouse.
Additional comments: