Identifying the doves

Whitewing Dove (Photo provided by Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Whitewing Dove (Photo provided by Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

2There are seven doves that call Louisiana home all or parts of the year, and hunters are allowed to take five of these subspecies.

The two protected doves are the common ground dove and the Inca dove. Both are easily identifiable because both are substantially smaller (5-6 inches long) than the cousins, the mourning, Eurasian collared, whitewing, ringed turtle and rock dove, a fancy name for the common pigeon.

Because the Eurasian collared and ringed turtle doves are nonnative species, they can be taken without regard to the 15-bird daily limit. There is no restriction on daily limits on these three species.

However, federal and state law forces hunters to identify these two birds in their bag. Hunters taking Eurasian collared and ringed turtle doves must leave one fully featured wing and the head on the dove when coming from the field and transporting these birds to camps and/or home.

Along with mourning doves, whitewing doves, which began moving in larger numbers into Louisiana’s southern and western parishes some 10 years ago, must be counted among the 15 in the daily limit.

Here’s a help in identifying the five doves allowed to Louisiana hunters:

MOURNING DOVES: About 10-11 inches long with a slender body, thin neck, black bill and a long tail, pointed at tip. Hunters will find more mourning doves than any other dove species in Louisiana.

EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE: More than 11 inches and most times at least 12 inches long. Pale gray head and breast with a thin, black line (collar) across the back of its neck. There’s a thin white border across the top of this black lint. It has a long, squared tail. A species that escaped its cages and has thrived in the southern U.S.

RINGED TURTLE DOVE: Its thin, black collar and long, squared tail give it the appearance of an Eurasian collared dove, but this bird is smaller, seldom more than 10 inches long and has a creamy-to-light brown head and breast. State biologists said this species is a bird that escaped cages and has survived in small numbers in urban environs.

WHITEWING DOVE: Similar to the size of a mourning dove, but sometimes larger with a heavier body and a longer, black bill than a mourning dove. A telltale sign is the white streak along its wing, hence its name. Tail is long and slightly rounded. Has a pale blue, teardrop-shaped ring on eyes.

ROCK DOVE/COMMON PIGEON: Largest of the doves with adults 11 inches or longer. The dove with variable colors in its feathers that’s labeled “pigeon” in cities and parks, and it’s also found around grain silos and feed lots.

Sources: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cornell Lab or Ornithology