Photo: Ben Knoot/Audubon Photography Awards

Inca Dove

Columbina inca

The soft, whistled no-hope of the Inca Dove is a familiar sound in southwestern cities. These little doves are often seen walking about on lawns with dainty steps, or fluttering up with a rattle of wings. In much of their range, they are found around human dwellings, and rather seldom seen in natural habitats away from towns or farms. Probably absent originally from areas north of Mexico, they have spread northward as settlements have grown up in the southwest.
Conservation status Abundant, and still expanding its range to the north.
Family Pigeons and Doves
Habitat Towns, parks, farms. In the United States found mostly around human dwellings, especially where there are green lawns and plantings of trees. Will inhabit desert yards or very urbanized areas as long as water is available. Sometimes nests away from human habitations along lowland streams or rivers.
The soft, whistled no-hope of the Inca Dove is a familiar sound in southwestern cities. These little doves are often seen walking about on lawns with dainty steps, or fluttering up with a rattle of wings. In much of their range, they are found around human dwellings, and rather seldom seen in natural habitats away from towns or farms. Probably absent originally from areas north of Mexico, they have spread northward as settlements have grown up in the southwest.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult male and female
Feeding Behavior

Forages almost entirely on the ground, walking about on bare soil or among short grass or weeds. Will also come to bird feeders (which may be important in maintaining city flocks). Regularly swallows grit (small gravel) to aid in digestion of hard seeds.


Eggs

2. White. Incubation is by both parents, 15-16 days. Male incubates mostly during middle of day, female at other times. Young: Both parents presumably feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 12-16 days, are tended by parents for another week or so. A pair may raise up to 4-5 broods per year.


Young

Both parents presumably feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 12-16 days, are tended by parents for another week or so. A pair may raise up to 4-5 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds. Feeds on a wide variety of seeds, including waste grain, grass seeds, birdseed. May sometimes eat fruits, such as those of cactus.


Nesting

Male defends breeding territory against other males, displaying with one wing raised over back; males will sometimes fight vigorously. In courtship, male bobs head, raises tail high over back and spreads it widely to show off black and white markings. Nest site varies, usually in tree or shrub 5-20' above ground, sometimes as high as 50' or on ground. May be on building ledge, wire, other artificial site. Nest (built by female, with material gathered by male) a small platform of twigs, stems, leaves, sometimes lined with grass.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. Sometimes wanders northward in fall and winter; birds that stray north and then remain to breed help to expand the species' range.

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Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. Sometimes wanders northward in fall and winter; birds that stray north and then remain to breed help to expand the species' range.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A soft coo-coo or no-hope, often repeated.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.