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Inca Dove
Columbina inca



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae

Physical Characteristics

About 7.5 inches (19 cm) long. A very small, slim dove with a scaly look. The tail is square ended with white sides (Peterson, 1990). The throat is white; forehead is pale pink-grey shading to pale brown-pink on the crown, face, and neck. Upperparts are pale grey-brown shading to white-grey. The breast is a pale dull pink shading to buff-white on the belly and white on the under tail coverts. The central tail feathers are grey-brown, the next two are black with a trace of white, and the outer tail feathers are black with white ends. The bill is black, legs and feet are flesh pink to purple-pink (Goodwin, 1983).


Open country with scattered trees or scrubby growth generally in arid or semi-arid locations around cultivated areas, farm-lands, parks, and gardens are the preferred habitats (American Ornithologists' Union, 1983).

Geographic Range

This species is a resident from extreme southeastern California through central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and central Texas, south through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua to northwestern Costa Rica (American Ornithologists' Union, 1983).


The Inca Dove is an herbivorous ground feeder who primarily consumes small, dried seeds. Wheat, dari, and other similarly sized cultivated grain seeds will be eaten when they are available. Wild seeds that are eaten are much smaller than commercial grain seeds (Goodwin, 1983). Doves are unique from other birds since they do not have to raise their head in order to drink (Leahy, 1982).

Reproductive Characteristics

Columbina inca builds its nest in a tree or bush, often using the old nest of other species (Goodwin, 1983). When self-built, the nest is a flimsy platform (Leopold, et al., 1981). Females lay two white eggs. The nestlings fledge at 14-16 days. There is a prolonged breeding season in New Mexico from March through August (Goodwin, 1983). They are monogamous breeders with the bond being maintained for the entire nesting season. The male and female share in incubation, brooding, and feeding of the young. Doves and pigeons feed their young with a "crop-milk" that is made of cellular material that is sloughed from areas of specialized epithelial tissue in each lobe of the crop. During the nestlings first 4 or 5 days, they are fed "crop-milk" exclusively, and then it is mixed with gradually increasing numbers of seeds (Leopold, et al., 1981).


This dove is strong in flight, with rapid wing beats; however, it often appears jerky and slow when flying short distances. A buzzing sound is made in flight. Within one second of landing, the tail raises 2-3 inches (5-8 cm). Little fear of man is shown. This communal rooster tends to spend a great deal of time sunning (Goodwin, 1983). The voice is described as a monotonous coo-hoo or no-hope (Peterson, 1990).

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.

Goodwin, D. 1983. Pigeons and doves of the world, 3rd ed. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, 363 pp.

Leahy, C. 1982. The birdwatcher's companion: an encyclopedic handbook of North American birdlife. Hill and Wang, New York, 917 pp.

Leopold, A. S., R. J. Guti‚rrez, and M. T. Bronson. 1981. North American game birds and mammals. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 198 pp.

Peterson, R. T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.

Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.


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