White-winged Dove

About White-winged Dove

White-winged Doves are relatives of Mourning Dove. In fact, you might not be able to differentiate between the two species at first at all. A clear difference is visible in the bulkiness and the larger size of the White-winged Dove regardless. In the southwest US, this species appears as summer dwellers. 

In some regions, you find them pretty much anywhere you look, especially in your backyard. The desert and mangrove streams also hear the calls of male dove in the morning on spring days. You may see this species in some desert areas, nibbling on cactus fruit and gaining delicious nutrition from the nectar from the cactus flower. As such, they are considered important pollinators for cactus. 

Today, we’ll learn about: 

  • White-winged Dove color patterns, songs, and size
  • White-winged Dove behavior, habitat, and diet
  • White-winged Dove lifecycle, nesting, and migration range


White-winged Doves Color Pattern

The overall plumage color of an adult White-winged Dove is a pale shade of brown. The brown color is so faded in appearance that it almost takes on a gray tint. The underpart is white, while their tail is a darker shade of brown. They have a small patch of black right over the neck area and a black bill with a bit of blue. The blue is also present as eyering even though they have red eyes. 

And of course, then there is the wing. While perched, the wing appears to have a strip of white running along with the corners. When they are flying, though, you can see a larger white covering the inner wings. Then there are the leg and feet, which are much more pinkish than one would expect. 

There isn’t much difference between immature White-winged Doves and adult ones. However, their eye color is rather dark brown or black. The plumage is also a dull grey rather than a faded brown, and the legs have a more brownish color to them. They also don’t have the blue eyering and a streak of black on their cheeks.  

Description And Identification

There are so many ways of identifying White-winged Doves. For one, they are a common occurrence in the southwest US, so if you live there, you might not even find them a novelty as a birder. You might even have the experience of feeding them in your backyard. As they are close relatives of Mourning doves, you might even mistake the species with them. 

This is still an unlikely occurrence. White-winged Doves do have some things that set them apart from their friend species. For one, it is the wings, the reason they have the name. There is the tantalizing strip of white on the corners of the wings, which is otherwise brown when they are perched. Then, when they fly, you notice the winner wing is primarily white. They also have black streaks on their cheeks, blue eyerings, and red eyes. The rest of the plumage is a pretty brown shade that is more on the gray side. 

If the color patterns aren’t enough to identify them, you can always count on the songs. They have songs that run for about 6 seconds. Those are mostly high-pitched coos, with the last one being extremely louder than the others. Then, you might hear some slurred sounds in between the clear notes. They will perch in high places while singing, so they are easy to spot too. You are more likely to hear their calls if there are more than the paired doves in the area around the nest. They are communicating with each other. 

Then, there’s the clapping sound they produce with their wings. These songs are both for display fights and territorial markings. They also make those sharp sounds so that any intruder in the area would get warned. 

As you can see, White-winged Doves are a loud species that want their presence to be known. Simply, keeping out some seeds in your backyard for the birds to munch on would bring them to you. 

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White-winged Dove Song 

A series of cooing hoots with a scratchy quality to it is heard from the male White-winged Dove. To be accurate, you hear 9 of them in a row. In between the hoots, you hear some slurry pitch. The song goes on for 5 to 6 seconds, with the final hoot a long one. Usually, they are perched somewhere high while singing. 

Female White-winged Doves have a slurred call that lasts for a shorter period. Male and female White-winged Doves are both known to give out a short call if they hear another dove nearby while they are inside their nest. 

The male doves slap the back of their wings together to make a clapping sound when they get territorial. They do so in the middle of their display flights. Adult doves, while nesting, can make the same clapping sound to scare any intruder in the area. When taking off, a whirring, staccato sound is produced by the wings of White-winged Doves. The tip of their wings also makes some whistling sounds. 

White-winged Dove Size

As pigeons, White-winged Doves are a large species. In length, they are about 28 to 30 cm, counting the length of their tail. Their wingspan spreads to about 50 cm, certainly a generous wing size. In weight, they are somewhere from 140 g to 170 g. 

White-winged Dove Behavior

Most of their foraging takes place on ground level. Sometimes, they wander around cactus, trees, and shrubs for food. White-winged Dove often visits the Saguaro cactus, as they enjoy both the flower and fruit from it. In desert areas, this cactus might be the only way the dove species can access drinking water. They usually walk on the ground or tree branches. When they do fly, it is a straight path with no twist to it. They believe in the effectiveness of reaching the destination over anything else. 

What White-winged Doves Eat

White-winged Dove survives mostly on seeds. Berries and fruits have also made their way into the diet, but they rely on seeds the most.  And their ability to eat seeds has allowed them to not only survive but increase their population and habitat range. 

Most of the seeds they eat come from wild plants. They might also eat grains cultivated on farmlands and even acorns if the occasion calls for it. They will also eat fruits, especially from cactus plants. They like smaller berries too. For nectar, they prefer large flowers. 

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Where White-winged Doves Live And Habitat

Pretty much any place is a habitat for White-winged Dove. Groves, deserts, wood rivers, towns, this species have the distinct advantage of adapting everywhere they step their foot in. In the southwest, you will mostly see them in semi-open areas. This includes Texas’ native brush areas and the deserts in the west region, along with oak woods of the open variety and chaparrals.

When habitats are altered, it doesn’t take them long to adapt. Citrus groves, suburbs, farm fields, grasslands, have shown their steady presence regardless of the changing landscape. Some remain in northern Mexico during winter, but it is mainly in the town areas. 

Range and Migration

A part of the White-winged Dove population happens to be migratory in nature. They spend their winters in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. In Texas, they are present throughout the year. In fact, in San Antonio alone, the population has been estimated to be more than a million in 2001. 

Whether it is urban, cultivated land, or woodland, deserts, and scrubs, White-winged Doves can make a home anywhere. The more northward you go, the more their population increases. They have most part of the United States as their territory and wander around the south of Canada. 

Urbanization and people finding feeding doves in their backyard to be an idle pastime, the White-winged Doves have made a home for themselves all over Texas, Louisiana, the coasts of Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Florida also sees a large part of them. Reports have been heard of the dove species furthering its range, spilling into Arkansas, Kansas, and the northside of New Mexico

In Arizona, there’s the part of the population that inhabits the agricultural lands, and there’s the population that stays in the desert. A lot of the range of White-winged Dove overlaps with Mourning Dove, but this dove species tends to go further towards the sky. 

White-winged Dove Lifecycle

Usually, White-winged Doves give birth to two eggs. Sometimes, they may give birth to 1 egg or even have 4 in a brood. The eggs are usually white or have a pale, buff appearance. Both sets of parents do the incubation part. This takes about 13 to 14 days before the eggs are ready to hatch. 

Then, at about 13 to 16 days, the young ones are old enough to leave the nest. The young ones are fed pigeon milk by the parents before then. Even after they leave the nest, the parents continue to feed the young for some time. In a year, they have 2 to 3 broods. 


White-winged Doves are colonial nesters. They do so, especially when they are in groves isolated from the rest of the world, but the nest site has a lot of feeding ground around them. During the display of courtship, the male flies straight upward and then comes down in a glide, doing a wide, circling path. Perching, male doves might raise their tail and fan them out to show the black and white pattern on their tail. The male and female White-winged Dove both do preening and nodding rituals during courtship. 

For the nest site, they usually choose cactus, shrub, or trees with the nest anywhere between 4’ to 30’ from the ground. The nest might be on the branch of a tree or in the fork. Sometimes, they will make the nest over old ones while some might be placed on thorns. The nest is nothing more than a platform made of sticks. The male White-winged Doves bring the material over while the female concentrates on building it. 

Anatomy of a White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove happens to be a large and bulky species compared to their relative Mourning Dove. A small head adorns an otherwise large body. There is a clear distinction between the neck and chest area. Their belly, while protruding, doesn’t do so by much. In rest, the wings appear long but flat. 

While flying, White-winged Dove takes on a beautiful shape. The legs are extremely short but are thicker than a lot of bird species of that size. The tail happens to be square-shaped. They have large eyes and a bill that has the slightest curved to it. The bill also happens to be thick in nature. 

Final Thoughts

The best thing about trying to find White-winged Doves is that you don’t necessarily need to go to a deserted area or take a hike along mountain paths to see them. You probably see them a lot if you live somewhere in the south of the US. You’re sure to see them in Urban areas, cities included. You might find them foraging in groups, walking on the ground, or perching somewhere high. You might also find them nesting in trees with a good shade over their head. 

When they are perched leisurely, they appear to be a regular tan color. However, when the white-winged dove fly, you see the clear white stripes on wings that lend character to their visage. If you go to the southwest region to find them in forests or deserts, you should look for them in the afternoon and morning. At that time, they are usually frequenting the water bodies. 

Originally, when their native habitats were getting destroyed, White-winged Doves lessened in number. However, they were quick to adapt to the changing situation and made themselves professional city dwellers. White-winged Doves are seen in abundance, and from the south, their range has been steadily expanding to the north. 


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying White-winged Dove 

The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing White-winged Dove 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.

White-winged Dove Iron On Patches 

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The White-winged Dove is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

White-winged Dove Stickers

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

Bird Feeders For White-winged Dove

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Here are some feeders you can look more into, Hummingbird feeder, Suet bird feeder, and Cardinal bird feeder.

Best Birdhouses for White-winged 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.

Want to know more about specific birdhouses such as Blue jay birdhouse, Finch birdhouse, and Sparrow birdhouse.

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