Inca Dove

The southwestern cities are certainly acquainted with the soft whistling notes of no hope as the Inca Dove sings out. Often, they will wander around your lawn, taking delicate steps or flutter around as their wings make rattling noises. A big part of their range sees them around human settlement. 

About Inca Doves

Seldom these birds are seen in more open habitats, such as deserts or forests away from easy human reach. They weren’t present in Northern Mexico in the past. But recently, most of the population of the Inca Dove has migrated north. 

Today, we’ll learn about: 

  • Inca Dove color patterns, songs, and size
  • Inca Dove behavior, habitat, and diet
  • Inca Dove lifecycle, nesting, and migration range


  • 12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription - 1 patch a month
    12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription – 1 patch a month
  • 12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription - 3 patches a month
    12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription – 3 patches a month

Inca Dove Color Pattern

The overall plumage color of Inca Dove is a pale, gray, sandy shade. The feathers have dark tips all over them. Just one look will make you think there are scales on their body because of the tips. There isn’t much difference in the color pattern in the whole body. It is the same scaled gray splash.

The feather on the outer tail only happens to be white. This isn’t something you will realize until you see the species fly. The underwings will give you a glimpse of the beautiful shade of chestnut. The bill is black while their legs are white. 

Description And Identification

You will probably find Inca Doves all around where you live if you are somewhere in the U.S. Especially on the southwest side of the U.S., they are all around human dwellings. You can spot them if you take a walk around farmlands or regular parks. Even if you might not notice them at first, if you keep your eyes trained on the trees around you or look at the bare ground, you will at least see one perched or hopping around. 

When you do see them, how will you know you are looking at an Inca Dove? You have probably already seen this species around you and could not name them properly before. Or maybe you mistook them for another dove species. So, how will you know this one is the right one? 

Well, the first giveaway would be the plumage. Gray plumage isn’t rare, nor is the almost grayish brown shade that Inca Doves have all over them. However, the feathers with dark tips stacked one over the other do make it look like a scaled body. Also, there aren’t many dove species, or bird species in general, who look like there are scales on their feather.

If the plumage color that’s almost similar to the color of old cement houses isn’t enough to recognize them, how about we focus on the song? If you hear a coo of sadness, as if someone has lost all hope in their life, you can always trace the source back to this species. The 4-5 notes Inca Doves sing happen to be distinctive. There’s a hint of aggression to them, yet, at its core, the song is a sad one. The song also doesn’t last long, 2 seconds in most cases. They keep on singing for lengthy periods, though. This should give you enough opportunity to track them down by their sounds. 

Inca Dove Song 

Male Inca Doves produce a coo sound. Female Doves make this noise too. It’s a mournful tune that almost sounds as if they are saying there is no hope anywhere. The duration of the song doesn’t even pass the one-second mark. Yet, the Inca Doves repeat those notes again and again. 

The species produces 4-5 distinct notes. These are stuttering, aggressive ones that go on for two seconds. 

A dry, rattling sound is made by the wings of Inca Dove when they prepare for take-off. It sounds nothing like the ones Mourning Doves make. It isn’t a piercing sound but rather a quiet one. Yet, it is distinctive enough to be immediately associated with the species. It is almost as if someone’s shuffling a stack of cards or fanning them. 

Inca Dove Size

Small and slender, the color pattern of Inca Dove might not be anything worth calling adorable, but the size is. They have a small head with a tail that has a square tip. They come with short legs and a bill that droops the slightest amount. A Mourning Dove would be bigger than Inca Dove any day, but a Common Ground-Dove happens to be smaller. 

The Inca Doves are about 18 to 23 cm in length, depending on whether it is a female or male dove. In weight, they are about 30 g to 58 g, which is again related to their gender. Not much is known about the wingspan of the Inca Dove. From what observers can see and make out, they aren’t large ones. 

Inca Dove Behavior

A good chunk of foraging happens on the grounds. Inca Doves glide around bare soil or get partially hidden by the weeds and short grass. They make rounds around bird feeders. A big portion of the city flocks of Inca Doves relies on the feeders in the backyard of your houses to feed them. They eat grit regularly to digest some of the hard seeds that have become part of their diet. 

Inca Dove Diet

The main diet of Inca Dove centers around seeds. They have a wide range of seeds they can feed on, along with birdseed, grass seeds, and waste grain. Food sometimes weaves its way into their diet. By food, we mostly mean cactus or similar trees. 

Inca Dove Habitat

Inca Dove can live pretty much anywhere. The closer you are to the human population, the better chances you have of seeing the species. A walk around the towns, farms, and parks of the southwest should allow you to see at least one Inca Dove. 

Especially in the United States, Inca Doves fly around the backyard of human dwellers. If your backyard has an attractive array of green trees and a splendid lawn full of greenery, you are probably used to them. 

They are capable of creating a sustainable life for them in deserts or extremely urbanized localities. The only thing they need to survive in those areas is a generous supply of water. Though it is rare, they do live near rivers or streams in the lowland areas where one cannot find any human settlement. 

Range and Migration

In places where the habitat suits their needs, they are not only common but found in abundance. Their range starts from the South, right from Costa Rica to the southwest of America. The last couple of decades have seen their range increase both northward and southward. Surprisingly enough, their name might be traced back to the Inca empire. But the dove themselves don’t seem to have any plans of setting their claws where the empire once used to be. 

Scrublands, deserts, and cultivated areas are where you can find them the most. Some have wandered into Florida or even been intentionally released there. It still doesn’t seem to do anything towards breeding in the region. 

For the most part, Inca Doves aren’t known to migrate. They stay where they reside year-round. Some of them do end up in the northern region during winter and fall. It is mainly the ones that ended up in the north and stayed there that are helping increase the range. 

Inca Dove Lifecycle

Two eggs are born in a breed from a female Inca Dove. The color of the egg usually is an attractive white shade. Unlike most bird species where only the female bird incubates, here, both sets of parents do their best to warm the eggs by taking turns. In fact, during the day, it is primarily the male that does the incubating. The other times, it is the job of the female dove. 

It is presumed that both of the parents feed their kids. Like most young doves, their parents also feed them Pigeon milk. At about 12 to 16 days, the young then consider themselves old enough to leave the nest. Even after they leave the nest, the parents take care of them for another week or more. 

If you were surprised that they only have two eggs in a brood, you shouldn’t be. Pairs have 4 to 5 broods in a year. So, in a year, they at least have eight young ones. 


After male Inca Doves decide on breeding territory, the fight for territory begins. Male doves fight amongst themselves to protect their territory from the other. The fight mostly consists of aggressive displays such as raising one wing to the back. Other times, a vigorous fight breaks out. 

The courtship is a peaceful one with displays such as head bobbing from male doves. Raised tail happens to be part of the package. They also spread their tail so that the white and black making on the underside can be visible to the female dove. They ensure the interest of the female dove this way. 

They are among the few bird species with a variant of nest sites. Usually, they would build their nest somewhere on a shrub or tree.  It will at least be 5’ to 20’ from the ground. If there isn’t enough greenery around for their nests or every other spot is taken, they will use wire, ledge of buildings, and any other human-made site they can find. 

The nest is usually the work of the female Inca Dove. The male dove gathers the materials which the female dove uses. They arrange twigs, stems, and leaves together to create a small functional platform for their youngs. Sometimes, they will use grass to line the nest. 

Anatomy of an Inca Dove

Inca Doves are slender but surprisingly round birds due to the stack of feathers on their back. There’s a bit of curve present where their neck meets their chest. Their chest and belly, while not rounded, do produce an oval shape. Compared to their body, they have remarkably small heads. Their eyes appear to be pretty big for their head size. Then, there is the bill. It is a thin one that takes on a curve at the end. 

The legs of Inca Dove are almost invisible. It’s not necessarily thin as it is short, disappearing under their belly. They have a long, straight tail that’s just the right length for their body size. 

Final Thoughts

The birds might let out calls that sound as if they are saying no hope, but they are actually in abundance if you happen to be in the right place. They are certainly not a shy species. While they primarily reside in the southwest, their range has been expanding steadily. They also like being near the human population and aren’t stubborn about the kind of habitat they live in. If you walk around a farm or a town, you will come across at least one Inca Dove irrespective of the time of the day. 

Their favorite spot happens to be buildings with vast open land around them. They enjoy foraging and scouring the ground around those areas. Even if you can’t see them, a quick walk around the dusty parts of the park, and will be startling you soon. They never stray far from sight and will most likely end up perching on a nearby tree. They also use feeders as food sources. So, you can bring one to any of the known hotspots or hang one in your backyard to see it become a loved spot for Inca Doves. 

Inca Doves, among many other dove species, aren’t in danger of being wiped out of existence any time soon. Their range has only been increasing. Their adaptable nature and the fact that they don’t mind staying near humans allow them a better chance at survival as more and more natural resources are lost. 


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

  • Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription with 10x42 Binoculars
    Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription with 10×42 Binoculars
    $10.00 / month and a $58.00 sign-up fee
  • 12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription - 1 patch a month
    12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription – 1 patch a month
  • 12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription - 3 patches a month
    12 Month Prepaid Bird Watching Subscription – 3 patches a month

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Inca Dove  

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Inca Doves are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

  • Birding Binoculars
    Birding Binoculars
  • Kids Binocular 8x21
    Kids Binoculars

Inca Dove Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Inca Dove. Here is the sticker pack we sell with an Inca Dove sticker.

Bird Feeders For Inca Dove

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Best Bird Houses For Inca Dove

There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

Please Share to Help Us Get Kids Bird Watching