Monday, March 30, 2015

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian collared-dove- Karsen Bell

This dove picture came from Karsen Bell, a budding wildlife photographer from around Joplin. Charley Burwick identified it for me as a Eurasian collared-dove, Streptopelia decaocto, called ECD by birders.
Originally from India and Myanmar, ECDs spread all across Europe by the 20th century. A few ECDs were then introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s. They made their way to Florida by 1982 and then rapidly colonized much of the US, arriving in Missouri in the 1990s. Their prime diet is agricultural grains such as wheat, milo, corn and sunflower, which may explain why they in general avoid the Northeastern states. Charley gave me this history:

"I counted about 200 of them perched on telephone wires on Division near the train switching yards. It seems their primary migration path, when they invaded, was along railroad tracks, and small towns with grain elevators along the tracks."

They can become hand-tamed in urban areas, note black collar - Wikimedia
They have reached Alberta, Alaska and Nova Scotia but occur mostly across the Western and Central US. Their population is expanding much faster that either the house sparrows or starlings did in the 1800s.

"The Eurasian Collared-dove is associated with developed habitats throughout Europe and Asia, and this pattern holds in America. David Bonter said, “Human activity creates environments that are preferred by these nonnative doves. Collared-doves are also known to be aggressive and behaviorally dominant over similar species, and so (our) research focused on how the growing population of Eurasian Collared-doves was affecting Florida populations of Mourning doves, Common Ground-doves, White-winged doves, and Rock pigeons."

A story from the Dallas Morning News identifies them as the most rapidly expanding invasive species in Texas, not quite as destructive as feral fogs - that would be "when pigs fly" - but with a population growth of 15% per year. First seen there in 1995 according to Shaun Oldenburger, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s dove program leader, “That’s zero to 3 million-plus in less than 20 years.”

On a positive note, during dove hunting season ECDs frequently end up in hunter's mixed bags. As an exotic, non-game bird, they are legal to take and cannot be separated on the wing from our native doves during the hunting season. That is the price they pay for hanging out and competing with our native species.

There are ongoing studies to see if they are going to adversely affect our native dove populations in the long run. Only time will tell.

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