The white-winged dove is a fairly large dove with a long bill. Its name derives from a broad white band that can be seen along the edge of the wing when it is folded and across the wing when it is opened. The reddish eye is surrounded by bright blue skin, and there is a dark streak on the cheek below the eye.
The white-winged dove is native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America. Its diet consists of seeds, berries, and other fruit.
White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica) are semi-tropical doves whose native range extends from the southwestern U.S. through Mexico and Central America, into parts of western South America, and to some Caribbean islands. They are also residents in Florida, where they were introduced. The majority of White-winged Doves are seasonally migratory. They overwinter in Mexico and Central America and come to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico in April to breed, departing again in September. Some will overwinter in their breeding range, especially in residential areas where food remains available. In the southern parts of their range, they are year-round residents. There are twelve subspecies of White-winged Doves. Western or Desert White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica mearnsii) and Eastern White-winged Doves (Zenaida asiatica asiatica) are the most numerous and widely distributed subspecies.
(Ehrlich 1988, George et al. 1994, Rappole 2000, Stiles and Skutch 1989)
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: BREEDING: southeastern California and southwestern U.S. south to Honduras, locally to western Panama; Bahamas and Greater Antilles; islands of western Caribbean; western South America from southwestern Ecuador to northern Chile. In the U.S., range has expanded northward in recent decades. NON-BREEDING: generally in breeding range, but northern birds mostly migratory. Introduced in southern Florida.
White-winged Doves are large, pigeon-like doves. Adult birds are brownish-gray above and gray below, with distinct white wing markings found in no other New World dove. When perched with wings folded, the white wing bars form a narrow (1cm wide) margin along the leading and lower edges of the wings. In flight, they appear as brilliant white crescents framing the body on the upper surface of each wing. Both male and female adults also have a ring of blue, featherless skin around each eye, red irises, a patch of black feathers or “ear spot” beneath and behind the eye, and red or pinkish-red legs and feet. Males and females are difficult to differentiate in the field, although males tend to be slightly larger and a bit more colorful than females, with a hint of purple on the neck and head, and a bolder black ear spot. Juveniles are more gray-brown than adults. They have no blue eye ring, their irises are black, and their legs and feet are pink or brownish-pink.
White-winged Doves are often compared to Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), but Mourning Doves are slightly smaller, with smaller heads and bills. Additionally, Mourning Doves’ tails are pointed instead of squared, and they lack the distinct bright wing patches or white tail tips of White-winged Doves.
(Cottam and Trefethen 1968, Kaufman 2000, Oberholser 1974)
Average mass: 170 g.
Average length: 30 cm.
Average wingspan: 50 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 140 g.
Length: 29 cm
Weight: 153 grams
Sierra de la Laguna Pine-oak Forests Habitat
This taxon is found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forest, a mountainous ecoregion which rises from the arid Baja California Sur, creating islands of unique vegetative communities. There are approximately 694 plant species, approximately 85 of which are endemic to this ecoregion. Overall species richness is low to moderate, with a total of only 231 vertebrate taxa. The ecoregion is classified in the Tropical and Subtropical Coniferous Forests biome. Much of the pine-oak association remains intact due to the inaccessibility of the rugged and inaccessible terrain.
The topographical features and geological events that gave rise to this particular region are responsible for the diversity of climates and vegetation in the same area. The highest strata of mountains, situated at 1600 to 2000 metres (m) in elevation, are composed of pine-oak forests that transform into oak-pine forests (1200 m) and oak forests (800 m) as elevation decreases. The climate is temperate sub-humid with summer rains and occasional winter rains.
These pine-oak forests constitute the wettest portions in the state of Baja California Sur (760 millimetres of precipitation annually). Slight variations in climatic conditions make up three different vegetation assemblages in the temperate forest. Pine forests at the highest elevations are dominated by Pinus cembroides ssp. lagunae, and understory taxa such as Muhlenbergia spp. and Festuca spp. Pine-oak forests dominated by associations of Pinus cembroides subsp. lagunae with Quercus devia, Arbutus peninsularis, and Quercus tuberculata, and a variety of trees of smaller stature such as Calliandra peninsularis and Mimosa tricephala, with associated shrubs to complement the landscape.
Some of the endemic reptiles are the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) and the Yucca Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis). Other reptilian taxa found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests include the Baja California Rock Lizard (Petrosaurus thalassinus), Baja California Rattlesnake (Crotalus enyo) and the Baja California Brush Lizard (Urosaurus nigricaudus).
Only two amphibian taxa are found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests. The Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus) is one anuran found here. The widely distributed California Chorus Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina) is another resident of the ecoregion. One other anuran, Pseudacris regilla, was previously recognized in the ecoregion, but erecent DNA analysis has rendered this taxon of unclear distribution.
Of the approximately 30 mammalian species of mammals present, one of them (an endemic bat) lives only in pine-oak forests. The level of endemism is high, and this is well demonstrated by the proportion of endemic species with respect to total recorded species. More than ten percent of the mammalian species found at Sierra de la Laguna are endemic. One notable mammal found along the far west coast, including California and Baja, is the Ornate Shrew (Sorex ornatus). There are several threatened mammals found in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests, including: the Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana NT). The isolation of this region has contributed to the scarcity of predators, and to the poor competitive ability of some animals. Rodents and lagomorphs are virtually absent from the region
The avifauna inhabiting these pine-oak forests is important because half of the bird species breeding at Sierra de la Laguna only utilize pine-oak forests as breeding habitat. The endemic Baja Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma hoskinsii), along with the White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) and Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) are only a few of the avian species found in this ecoregion. Other notable birds in this and the Gulf of California xeric scrub ecoregion include the Xantus's Hummingbird (Hylocharis xantusii) and the endangered Peninsular Yellowthroat (Geothlypis beldingi EN)..
White-winged Doves inhabit brushlands and woodlands or desert scrub and cacti, as well as agricultural fields and residential areas throughout their range. Eastern migratory populations breed in the semi-tropical, thorny woodlands in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Veracruz in Mexico and along the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, USA. They also nest extensively in citrus orchards, accounting in some years for 50-90% of all nesting activity. In Texas, nesting colonies and individuals also rely on residential shade and ornamental trees as nest sites from which they utilize bird feeders and bird baths in town and take feeding forays into nearby agricultural fields. Western White-winged Doves breed in regions of desert scrub and cacti or riparian woodlands throughout Sonora and Baja California in Mexico, and in southeastern Nevada and California, southern Arizona, and western New Mexico, USA. They also utilize citrus groves and residential areas as nesting sites and agricultural fields for feeding grounds. When they migrate south for winter, both populations join resident White-winged Doves in semi-arid regions of thornscrub, deciduous dry forest, cacti forest, savannah, and agricultural and riparian areas with scattered trees.
(George et al. 1994, Small 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989)
Habitat Regions: tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Generally arid regions with scrubby thickets or riverine forest, open cultivated lands with scattered trees, and mangroves (Tropical and Subtropical zones) (AOU 1983); mature citrus groves. Nests in tree, shrub, cactus, or vine.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Resident throughout most of range, but northern breeding populations are migratory. Arrives in northern breeding areas March-April, departs around mid-September (Terres 1980). Breeders from Texas and eastern Tamaulipas winter in southwestern Mexico and Central America (Swanson and Rappole 1992).
White-winged Doves feed on a variety of seeds, grain, and fruit that vary depending on their range and seasonal availability. They consume seeds and fruits of wild trees, grasses, and herbaceous plants, as well as those of ornamental cultivars. Domestic grain crops including sunflower, barley, sesame, sorghum, wheat, corn, and safflower are also an important food source in many parts of White-winged Dove’s range. To supplement their seed-based diet, White-winged Doves will also ingest shells of small snails and other gastropods, or bits of bone extracted from raptor pellets or mammal feces. The bones and shell are an important source of calcium for the doves, necessary for eggshell and crop milk production.
Western White-winged Doves’ dietary preferences lead them to migrate into the Sonoran Desert to breed during the hottest and driest time of the year. Their paradoxical arrival at such a harsh season is tied to the flowering and fruiting of columnar cacti such as the saguaro (Carnegia gigantea). Flower pollen and nectar, and subsequent fruits and seeds, provide virtually all the needed food and moisture required by desert White-winged Doves from May to mid-July. This food supply is consistently dependable, for even in drought years, columnar cacti flower abundantly in the Sonoran Desert. Wolf and Martinez del Rio performed isotopic analysis of Western White-winged Dove tissues during saguaro flowering and fruiting season and found that most of the carbon and water in the birds’ bodies was derived from saguaros. This research demonstrates a strong ecological association between saguaros and desert White-winged Doves and illustrates why western populations’ original range was closely tied to that of the saguaro cactus. With the arrival of agriculture in southwestern North America, Western White-winged Doves’ range has expanded into areas beyond the saguaro’s distribution in response to newly available food resources.
(Cottam and Trefethen 1968, George et al. 1994, Haughey 1986, Waggerman 1977, Wolf and Martinez del Rio 2000)
Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; nectar; pollen
Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore , Nectarivore )
Comments: Feeds on wild seeds, grains and fruits. Forages mainly on ground, sometimes in trees. In Jamaica, eats seeds, cactus fruits, and orange seeds (Lack 1976).
Western White-winged Doves are important pollinators of the saguaro cactus. This behavior serves them well since they also feed on saguaro fruits and seeds. Although they are primary seed consumers, White-winged Doves also serve as dispersers of saguaro seeds. Some of the seeds the doves regurgitate and feed to their young fall to the ground, concentrating seeds beneath the nest. Since saguaro seedlings require shade to become successfully established, the doves may be inadvertently placing saguaro seeds in some of the most viable spots for development beneath their nest trees.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; pollinates
White-winged Doves are hunted by a variety of predators. Raptors take young and adults during nesting season, but take of eggs and nestlings by grackles, jays, and crows is a more significant source of White-winged Dove predation. Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) and Mexican Crows (Corvis imparatus) are the highest cause of White-winged Dove mortality in eastern breeding areas where they take eggs and nestlings to feed to their own broods. Mammals and reptiles will also take young and eggs from nests, but they are principle predators on the ground. When aware of predators, nesting doves rarely perform distraction displays. More often, they readily flee from their nests in explosive flight that can result in eggs or chicks being ejected from the nest. Terrestrial predators consume these young. Finally, ants will sometimes swarm and eat hatching or newly-emerged chicks.
(Blankinship 1966 and 1970, Cottam and Trefethen 1968, Dunks 1969, Ehrlich 1988)
- hawks (Accipitridae)
- owls (Strigiformes)
- grackles (Quiscalus)
- crows (Corvus)
- bobcats (Lynx rufus)
- ringtails (Bassariscus astutus)
- raccoons (Procyon lotor)
- Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana)
- domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
- coyotes (Canis latrans)
- Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus)
- gopher snakes (Pituophis)
- rattlesnakes (Crotalus)
- kingsnakes (Lampropeltis)
- rat snakes (Elaphe)
- races (Coluber)
- whip snakes (Dryophiops)
- ants (Formicidae)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Gregarious, especially after nesting season. Birds gather in large flocks to feed. Pollinates and disperses seeds of saguaro cactus in Southwest (Olin et al. 1989). Nesting density up to at least 280 pairs/ha under favorable circumstances (see Swanson and Rappole 1992).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
White-winged doves are migratory and arrive at their breeding grounds in late-April. Males seek out nesting grounds in woody habitat and are territorial, sparring with wing-slaps when necessary. They attract a mate with cooing and visual displays. After copulation, the female will choose a nest site within the male's territory and construct a nest out of grasses, twigs, and weed stems. The female typically lays two eggs, and then both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs. Incubation lasts about 14 days, and the chicks leave the nest within 13-16 days of hatching. The male will continue to feed the young near the nest until they are four weeks old, but the female may start a new clutch immediately. At the end of the nesting season, in August, the birds aggregate in large feeding flocks, moving between nightly roost sites and daily foraging grounds. Migration south begins in mid- to late-September.
Status: wild: 261 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Once males have established nesting territories, they attract a mate with cooing and visual displays and aggressively defend the territory from other males, sparring with wing-slaps if necessary. If an interested female approaches, males perform precopulation behaviors such as additional cooing, wing and tail fanning, bowing, and mutual preening.
Mating System: monogamous
White-winged Doves arrive in their northern breeding grounds in late April. Western White-winged Doves will nest as isolated pairs in the southwest deserts, whereas Eastern White-winged Doves commonly nest in large colonies. Males seek out and defend nesting territories in woody habitat within flying distance of food and water. Banding of desert-nesting birds has shown that they will regularly fly up to 8 km from the nest site to a water source. Urban White-winged Doves nesting in San Antonio, Texas have been observed taking daily feeding forays to farms 5-20 km from their nest sites.
After copulation, the female chooses a nest site within the male’s territory, generally at forking tree branches or even atop abandoned nests of other birds. Over 2-5 days, she builds a relatively flimsy nest with grasses, twigs, weed stems and other nesting materials brought to her by her mate. Females usually lay two cream to white, unmarked eggs, and incubation begins before the second egg is laid. Both parents incubate the eggs in regular shifts; males are generally on the nest from mid-morning until mid-afternoon, and females from mid-afternoon through mid-morning.
Incubation lasts about 14 days, and the older chick hatches about a day earlier than its sibling. For the first four days of life, White-winged Dove parents feed their chicks “crop milk”, a protein- and fat-rich secretion of the esophageal lining that is chemically similar to mammalian milk. This diet is then supplemented with regurgitated seeds, and by the second week, the chicks’ diet is mostly composed of seeds. The chicks grow quickly and can leave the nest within 13-16 days of hatching. The male continues to feed the young near the nest until they are about four weeks old, while the female may start a new clutch as early as three days following the fledging, or loss, of the first clutch. Research in Texas has shown that on average, Eastern White-winged Doves successfully fledge about 2.2 chicks in a breeding season. By early August, nesting is over, and the adults and young doves aggregate in large feeding flocks where food is available. They move between nightly roost sites and daily foraging grounds until mid to late September, when they begin to migrate south.
(Cottam and Trefethen 1968, Ehrlich 1988, George et al. 1994, Goodwin 1977)
Breeding season: spring, through August
Average eggs per season: 2.2.
Average time to hatching: 14 days.
Average fledging age: 14.5 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Average time to hatching: 13 days.
Average eggs per season: 2.
Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care
Usually 2, sometimes 1 or 3-4, eggs are incubated for about 13-14 days. Nestlings are altricial. Young are tended by both adults. May raise a second brood. Often nests in loose colonies; or singly.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Zenaida asiatica
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Zenaida asiatica
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
In the early 1900’s, White-winged Dove breeding populations increased as irrigation and grain farming brought new sources of food and water to their historic range. As agricultural development and urban development began to eliminate traditional native brush nesting areas, doves shifted to nesting in citrus orchards. As a result of these habitat modifications, White-winged Dove populations have fluctuated throughout much of their range in response to changing nesting and feeding conditions. For example, after freezes, the citrus orchards that serve as major nest sites for eastern doves are unusable for 5-8 years until branches grow back to enough to provide sufficient cover. Dove populations decline with the lack of nest sites, then increase as they become available again. Likewise, increases or decreases in dove numbers have often been linked to availability of agricultural grain crops. Since the 1960’s, the overriding trend amid these fluctuations has been a steady decline in Eastern and Western White-winged Dove populations on their traditional breeding grounds.
Because it is an important game species, management of the White-winged Dove is an issue of concern. Recommendations for conservation and management include restoration and conservation of critical breeding habitats. State and federal wildlife agencies in Texas are attempting to restore habitat for White-winged Doves and other wildlife by planting native vegetation on former cropland along the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. In Tamaulipas, the brushy native vegetation used by the largest colony of nesting White-winged Doves was recently set aside as a sanctuary by the Mexican government. More of this type of protection is needed in additional breeding areas as well as in the non-breeding areas of southern Mexico and Central America where the doves spend the other half of the year.
(Blankinship 1966, Brown 1989, Burkepile et al. 1998, Fulbricht 1996, George et al. 1994)
US Migratory Bird Act: protected
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Comments: In southern Texas, declined with destruction of native nesting habitat and shift to less suitable citrus groves in the 1920s and 1930s; overhunting may be the primary factor contributing to the present decline in southern Texas (Swanson and Rappole 1992). Pesticides used on cotton may contaminate water and pose a threat.
Needs: In Texas, additional habitat needs to be acquired; grackle (predator) control programs can significantly increase dove productivity but are expensive and must be on-going (Swanson and Rappole 1992). See Cottam and Trefethen (1968).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
White-winged Doves have a negative impact on the agricultural economies within their range. They do not wait for harvest or ripe grain to fall, but instead perch upon stalks of sunflower or sorghum and eat the developing seeds. They aggregate in large flocks of sometimes thousands of birds, descend upon a single field of grain, and decimate it. For this reason they are known as “la plaga” (the plague) among many farmers in Mexico.
(Cottam and Trefethen 1968, George et al. 1994)
Negative Impacts: crop pest
White-winged Doves are the second most numerous migratory game bird species in North America (Mourning Doves are the first). In 1968, Cottam and Trefethen reported that hunting tourism during the two week hunting season in September brought an estimated $3 to $7.5 million annually to the local economy of Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley. Although tighter hunting regulations in recent years have limited dove take, White-winged Dove hunting continues to contribute to the economies of Texas, Arizona, and Tamaulipas states, where hunters from throughout North America gather each year for dove season.
(Cottam and Trefethen 1968)
Positive Impacts: food
White-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica) and the saguaro cactus (Carnegeia gigantea) have a well-established relationship. Western white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica mearnsii) obtain nutrients and water almost exclusively from the saguaro during the doves' breeding season. The doves' migration into the Sonoran Desert coincides with the reproductive cycle of the cactus, which flowers between April and mid-June. While blooming, the white-winged dove visits the flower more frequently then any other avian or bat species. Studies have shown that the white-winged dove carries large pollen loads on its bill, head feathers, crown, cheeks, and chin, and thereby transfers pollen as it moves from flower to flower. The cactus depends on the white-winged dove, as well as bees and bats, for its pollination services, as the saguaro requires cross-pollination to reproduce.
The white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is a dove whose native range extends from the south-western United States through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In recent years with increasing urbanization and backyard feeding, it has expanded throughout Texas into Louisiana and coastal Mississippi. It has also been introduced to Florida.
The white-winged dove is expanding outside of its historic range into Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and northern New Mexico.
White-winged doves are large, plump doves at 29 cm (11 in). They are brownish-gray above and gray below, with a bold white wing patch that appears as a brilliant white crescent in flight and is also visible at rest. Adults have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each eye and a long, dark mark on the lower face. Their eyes are bright crimson. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are more brown than adults. They have a blue eye ring and their legs and feet are brighter pink/red. Young also have brown eyes. Males have a slight iridescent sheen on their heads.
The cooing calls is hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo. A drawn-out "hoo-a" sound is used to tell others about the presence of a predator. To impress females, males circle them with tail spread and wings raised. Males and females work together in raising the young. While calling, the tail flares. Families and nestmates often stay together for life, perching and foraging together.
Some populations of white-winged doves are migratory, wintering in Mexico and Central America. They are year round inhabitants in Texas. San Antonio, Texas, had a year round population of over a million doves in 2001. The white-winged dove inhabits scrub, woodlands, desert, urban, and cultivated areas. It builds a flimsy stick nest in a tree of any kind and lays two cream-colored to white, unmarked eggs. One chick often hatches earlier and stronger, and so will demand the most food from the parents. A dove may nest as soon as 2–3 months after leaving the nest, making use of summer heat. The dove will nest as long as there is food and enough warmth to keep fledglings warm. In Texas, they nest well into late August.
White-winged doves feed on a variety of seeds, grains, and fruits. Western white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica mearnsii) migrate into the Sonoran Desert to breed during the hottest time of the year because they feed on pollen and nectar, and later on the fruits and seeds of the saguaro cactus. They also visit feeders, eating the food dropped on the ground. Cracked corn is a favorite of doves. This gregarious species can be an agricultural pest, descending on grain crops in large flocks. It is also a popular gamebird in areas of high population.
- Kelling, Steve. "Cornell Lab of Ornithology". "What we’re learning: Dynamic Dove Expansions: Citizen Science illustrates the spectacular range expansions taking place throughout North America". Audubon Conservation. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
- "National Geographic" Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
- Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 4, Josep del Hoyo editor, ISBN 84-87334-22-9
- "National Audubon Society" The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Allen Sibley, ISBN 0-679-45122-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zenaida asiatica.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Zenaida asiatica|
- White-winged Dove Species Account - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- White-winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
- Stamps (for Belize, Cayman Islands, Honduras, Mexico, and United States) at bird-stamps.org
- White-winged dove photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
- White-winged dove videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- White-winged dove videos at Tree of Life
- Raven, the Hand-Fed Dove (A true story)
- White-winged dove species account at NeotropicalBirds (Cornell University)
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Here the form on the west coast of South America is considered a distinct species, Zenaida meloda (AOU 2002).