Distribution and habitat
The dove is a resident breeder from southernmost Texas in the USA through Mexico and Central America south to western Peru and central Argentina. It also breeds on the offshore islands of northern South America, including Trinidad and Tobago and the Netherlands Antilles. It inhabits scrub, woodland and forest.
Numerous subspecies exist; some of the more widespread are:
- L. v. verreauxi – Bonaparte, 1855: the nominate taxon, found from Nicaragua to Venezuela
- L. v. angelica – Bangs & Penard, TE, 1922: found from Texas and coastal Mexico
- L. v. decolor – Salvin, 1895: found west of the Andes from Colombia to northern Peru
- L. v. brasiliensis – (Bonaparte, 1856): found in most of the Amazon north of the Amazon River
- L. v. decipiens – (Salvadori, 1871): found in much of central South America
The dove is about 28 cm (11 in) long and weighs 155 g (5.5 oz). Adult birds of most races have a grey tinge from the crown to the nape, a pale grey or whitish forehead and a whitish throat. The eye-ring is typically red in most of its range, but blue in most of the Amazon and northern South America. The upperparts and wings are grey-brown, and the underparts are whitish shading to pinkish, dull grey or buff on the chest. The underwing coverts are rufous. The tail is broadly tipped with white, but this is best visible from below or in flight. The bill is black, the legs are red and the iris is yellow.
The white-tipped dove resembles the closely related grey-fronted dove (Leptotila rufaxilla), which prefers humid forest habitats. The best distinctions are the greyer forehead and crown, which contrast less with the hindcrown than in the grey-fronted dove. In the area of overlap, the white-tipped dove usually has a blue (not red) eye-ring, but this is not reliable in some parts of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, where it typically is red in both species.
The white-tipped dove is usually seen singly or in pairs, and is rather wary. Its flight is fast and direct, with the regular beats and clattering of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general. The call is a deep hollow ooo-wooooo.
It builds a large stick nest in a tree and lays two white eggs. Incubation is about 14 days, and fledging another 15.