Extra dove hunting opportunities for this non-native species the Eurasian Collared Dove
As you might guess from the name, the Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is not a native bird. In fact, its original range is in the Middle East and Asia, but they spread throughout Europe and were introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s. From that short flight to Florida, it has had no problem colonizing much of North America in a very short timeframe. Like other dove and pigeon species, it thrives in urban and suburban areas with ample food sources available, but can survive well in dry, open farmlands and scrub-shrub habitats too. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about this aggressive intruder that could provide you with a lot more hunting opportunities.
Description and Life History of the Eurasian Collared Dove
The Eurasian collared-dove is larger than the typical mourning dove – measuring about 12 inches in length and weighing about 4 to 9 ounces (Diamond Dove 2019). It has a fairly large body, small head, and squared-off tail. Most of their body is a uniform sandy brown color, with a white-fringed, black collar on the back of their neck (All About Birds 2019). From the underside, you can see a darker gray band near the base of the tail feathers and a white band across the tips. Their bills are thin and dark in color. Opposed to the mourning dove, their eyes are dark red with a lighter-colored ring around them. While their call can be similar to the mourning dove, it is shorter and more monotone-sounding. They can also resemble a catbird by producing a nasal mewing call (National Audubon Society 2019).
Males display for females during the breeding season by flying up noisily and gliding down in a spiral motion while making different calls. The male may lead a female to a potential nest site, but the female will ultimately choose. Platform nests are built by the female out of grasses, twigs, and roots (brought to her by the male), and are usually located between 10 to 40 feet high in a shrub, tree, or manmade structure (National Audubon Society 2019). The female will generally only lay one or two white eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 14 to 19 days (All About Birds 2019). The chicks are fed “pigeon milk” and regurgitated seeds and insects by both parents for an additional 15 to 20 days until they can fly and leave the nest. Pairs may raise 3 to 6 broods each year where the weather is optimal. For example, in the Bahamas and Florida, it’s likely that most pairs breed and raise broods year-round, which could explain their rapid colonization in southern areas and limits in northerly areas.
Like mourning doves, Eurasian collared-doves feed mostly on seeds and waste grain (e.g., millet, sunflower, milo, wheat, and corn) by scratching on the ground or at bird feeders (National Audubon Society 2019; All About Birds 2019). They will also eat green leaves, insects, and berries as the opportunity presents itself.
While the species is still relatively new to North America, it’s likely that many of the same predators for mourning doves also prey on them. This might include snakes, raccoons, falcons, hawks, and cats. Humans can also hunt them with generally no limitation because they have proven to be fairly invasive. However, it’s unlikely that humans remove a substantial amount of the population each year.
Range and Habitat of the Eurasian Collared Dove
As mentioned, the Eurasian collared-dove is an original inhabitant of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. After being introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, some birds allegedly escaped a pet store during a robbery, and eventually made their way to Florida (All About Birds 2019). Today, you can find them in nearly every state, and parts of Canada and Mexico as well. However, they don’t seem to fare well in northern states where the temperatures are colder, making them rare occurrences in the upper Midwest and Northeast states (National Audubon Society 2019).
The Eurasian collared-dove occupies many of the same habitats that other native North American dove species (such as the white-winged dove) utilize. Open savannas, croplands, and suburban areas seem to provide the best habitat for them that is reminiscent of their native range, but they will also use riparian areas, orchards, old fields, deserts, and shrublands (NatureServe 2019; National Audubon Society 2019). In agricultural areas, they normally utilize open fields and yards to forage for waste grain and seeds. They also flourish with access to backyard bird feeders and open suburban parks, which could explain how they’ve spread across the country so quickly.
Conservation Issues for the Eurasian Collared Dove
Since their arrival in Florida in the 1980s, the Eurasian collared-dove has spread quickly across the country. The global breeding population is estimated to be approximately 8 million birds, while only about 5 percent of that live in the U.S.A. (All About Birds 2019). Overall, they are considered secure globally.
It’s unknown how much this species competes with other native dove species. No negative impacts have yet been observed (All About Birds 2019). But it’s assumed that they compete to some extent due to the overlap in habitats and food choices.
Hunting Opportunities for the Eurasian Collared Dove
Because the Eurasian collared-dove is a non-native species, they aren’t usually managed as a protected species. That generally means you can hunt them with no bag limits and year-round. (check out: Hunting Eurasian Collared-Dove in the Summers) Nevertheless, be sure to check your state’s hunting regulations before you take my word for it. The trick is knowing how to identify them from other native dove species so you don’t get yourself in hot water with a conservation officer. Granted, doves don’t give you much time to identify them before they blaze past you. In flight, look for a larger body size, wings with no marks on them, and a square tail with a white band across the back. If they land within sight, look for the red eyes and dark band across the back of their neck. These are all telltale signs you can use to distinguish them from other native species so you don’t accidentally shoot a native one out of season. If you’re not sure, just pass until the next bird comes along.
As far as hunting Eurasian collared-doves, many of the typical mourning dove tactics work as well. Find a field or food source (e.g., sunflower, wheat, oat, or millet) ahead of your hunting trip and, if possible, scout for bird activity in the morning and evening when dove hunting should be hottest. You could set up a small grassy blind or rely on camouflage clothing to hide your profile, but you will need one of them – doves are wary animals, and the Eurasian is no different. You can also use dove decoys to fool small flocks of Eurasian collared doves to come investigate when they’re being stubborn. Mourning dove decoys tend to work just fine for this purpose.
The traditional dove hunting openers that come to mind have always focused on mourning doves. Hunting the Eurasian collared dove is very similar in some respects, quite different in others. Because you can hunt them outside of your typical dove season and without bag limits, it can’t help but feel drastically different. But when you’re sitting in a field in early fall, sweating your you-know-what off, and trying to pick off a couple doves for a mixed-bag hunt, it also feels all too familiar.
Ryan Lisson is a biologist and regular content contributor to several outdoor manufacturers, hunting shows, publications, and blogs. He is an avid small game, turkey, and whitetail hunter from northern Minnesota and loves managing habitat almost as much as hunting. Ryan is also passionate about helping other adults experience the outdoors for their first time, which spurred him to launch Zero to Hunt, a website devoted to mentoring new hunters.