Conservation status Probably declined originally with clearing of native habitat, but has adapted well to altered environment, now abundant and probably expanding range to the north.
Family Pigeons and Doves
Habitat River woods, mesquites, saguaros, groves, towns. Found in a variety of semi-open habitats in southwest, including native brushlands in Texas and deserts farther west, plus chaparral and open oak woods; also adapts quickly to altered habitats, such as farmland, suburbs, citrus groves, plantings of trees in grassland. In winter, those remaining north of Mexico are mostly in towns.
Related to the Mourning Dove, but a larger and bulkier bird, the White-wing is mainly a summer resident in the southwestern states. It is abundant in some regions, and streamside groves or desert washes may echo with the crowing calls of males on spring mornings. In some desert areas, this dove often feeds on the fruits of cactus, and visits their flowers for nectar; it is an important pollinator of the giant saguaro cactus.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground, also up in trees, shrubs, cactus. Often seen at top of giant saguaro cactus, feeding on fruit or flowers (may get much of its water that way in desert areas).


2, sometimes 1-4. White to very pale buff. Incubation is by both parents, 13-14 days. Young: Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 13-16 days, are fed by parents for some time thereafter. 2-3 broods per year.


Both parents feed young "pigeon milk." Young leave nest at about 13-16 days, are fed by parents for some time thereafter. 2-3 broods per year.


Mostly seeds, some fruits and berries. Feeds on seeds of many wild plants, also some cultivated grains; may eat acorns where available. Feeds on fruits, especially those of cactus, also smaller berries. Will come to large flowers, apparently for nectar.


May nest in colonies, especially where nest sites in isolated grove are surrounded by good feeding areas. In courtship display, male flaps up and then glides down in wide circle. While perched, male raises tail and quickly fans it open and shut to flash black and white tail pattern. Both members of pair go through ritualized nodding and preening motions. Nest site is in shrub, tree, or cactus, usually 4-30' above ground. Placed on horizontal limb or fork in branch, sometimes on top of old nest or on tangle of thorns. Nest is a flimsy platform of sticks. Male brings most material, female builds.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Most of those nesting in southwest move south in fall. Migration is early in both seasons, most birds arriving by March and leaving in September. A few remain through winter north of the border, especially in suburban areas. Strays sometimes wander far north of breeding range. Regular along Gulf Coast in winter. Florida birds are mostly permanent residents.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Drawn out hooo-hooo-ho-hooo or who-cooks-for-you.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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