Home Nature Birds White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

White-winged dove is usually, olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet.
White-winged dove is usually, olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet.


The white-winged dove measures 25–31 cm long. It is also known as the Mesquite Dove.  A medium-sized, heavy-bodied, broad-winged dove with a slightly graduated tail and a striking broad white wing bar The bird is found in small flocks in open habitats, woodlands, and urban areas.
A white-winged dove is usually olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet. The outer rectrices are largely tipped white, with blackish subterminal bars and gray bases. Thus, this is creating a distinctive pattern seen easily as birds scatter in flight.
White-winged Dove has a bright cinnamon-rufous forehead and a greyish-brown crown with a narrow black stripe below the eye; hindneck and sides of neck glossed amethyst or golden-green; upper mantle washed light vinaceous. Thus, becoming olive-brown on the innermost wing coverts, mantle, scapular, and tertials
The back and rump are dull bluish-grey with olive-brown central rectrices. All but the innermost wing coverts are white, giving a large white wing patch in flight and at rest. The flight feathers are beautifully blackish-brown, with the secondaries and outer primaries narrowly edged white.
The bird’s throat to belly is pale fawn-pink grading to pale blue-grey or whitish-grey on the belly and under tail coverts. The female is duller, fawn-brown below, with reduced iridescence on the neck.
White-winged dove is usually, olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet.
A white-winged dove is usually olive-brown above and fawn-pink below, with a black bill and red tarsi and feet. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Similar Species

The sympatric Leptotila doves all have a distinctive squared-off tail pattern with white tips on the outer rectrices. They are plain-faced and are usually paler below without the black spots on scapulars, tertials, and greater wing coverts.
Eurasian Collared-Dove “Streptopelia decaocto” was introduced to populations in the USA. These Streptopelia species are heavier-bodied with square-ended tails and lack the tertial, scapular, and wing-covert markings, as well as the facial stripe. S. decaocto has a distinctive white-edged black neck collar and is paler sandy-buff below and lighter brown above.
Mourning Dove “Zenaida macroura” occurs in the southern U.S.A., Central America, and the Caribbean. It is readily told by its lack of a broad white wing bar in flight or when perched; a long, graduated tail makes it look slimmer and much less stocky.
Zenaida Dove Z. aurita (Yucatán Peninsula and the Greater Antilles on Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico plus the Bahamas) is similar in overall coloration but differs in that it is generally richer. Almost rufous-pink underparts, black spots on scapulars, tertials, and wing coverts, and a lack of white outer wing coverts—neck iridescence is rather brighter in Z. a. zenaida.


White-winged dove call is a rather quicker, higher-pitched series of notes than Z. macroura: caa-coo-cuk ca-cooo, ca-cooo, caooo, caooo, caooo, the final notes more drawn-out and slurred. Alternatively, a wha-uk, cuk, ca-ooo repeated every 3–5 seconds may be given. The first three syllables are all delivered very close together and rapidly. The first syllable may start with a growling quality noise or simply an even-pitched coo.


A migratory species in the north of its range and a resident in the south. Northern populations of Z.a. mearnsi from western North America winter along the Pacific coastal plains and foothills from Sinaloa to Oaxaca. Northern populations of Z.a. asiatica from Texas and north-east Mexico winter on the Pacific slope from Honduras to Guanacaste in Costa Rica. The species is largely terrestrial and neither shy nor inconspicuous, being found alone, in pairs, or in large flocks.
It feeds in leaf litter in the undergrowth or in fields, parks, or urban areas, taking seeds, mast, and small fruits, including Echinochloa crusgalli, Digitaria, Lolium, and Phalaris. Northern populations take cultivated grains in late summers such as milo, redtop cane, barley, maize, wheat, and rice. A variety of wild plants such as Croton, Jatropha spathula, oak mast, sunflower seeds, cactus fruits, prickly poppy, nightshade, and desert willow are also taken.


The breeding season is variable across its large latitudinal range, with northern populations breeding in the spring and summer and those further south breeding throughout the year.


The nest is a very fragile platform of twigs, sometimes lined with rootlets, and built in a dense, low shrub. In the west, favorite trees include Carnegiea gigantea, ‘palo verde’ Olneya tesota, and Prosopis. In the east, it nests in ebony as well as Bumelia angustifolia and Celtis pallida. The form in the west is very much more a solitary nester; eastern nominate birds typically breed in huge colonies.
Nests are usually placed 3–8 m above the ground. Two creamy buff eggs are usually laid, but sometimes two birds may lay in the same nest. Incubation lasts c.14 days, and squabs fledge after 13–16 days; they may clamber out of the nest and engage in limited flight within 11 days of hatching and can fly some distance after 15 days.
On display, the male calls from a low perch or the ground throughout the day. In courtship, he bows before the female, lowering his head, drooping and quivering his wings, and raising a fanned tail to reveal the tail pattern.


White-winged Dove occupies arid to semi-arid habitats, including open grasslands with scrub, scrubland, light woodland, and secondary growth, from sea-level and lowland areas locally up to 1,500 m. It also makes use of clearings, agricultural areas, parks, and gardens. In Panama, it is found in mangroves and adjacent farmland.
Further north, from Costa Rica to Mexico, it inhabits both mangroves and arid scrub with scattered columnar cacti and trees. It nests along the edges of swamps and marshes in mangrove or ‘palo verde’ trees while feeding in nearby agricultural areas. In Guatemala, it also penetrates more humid upland forests at 2000–2700 m.
Similarly, throughout the Caribbean, it is found in both coastal mangroves and upland forests. The black mangrove “Avicennia nitida” of drier habitats seems to be preferred in this region. In the southern U.S.A. and Mexico, nominate birds are found in woodlands dominated by ebony Pithecellobium flexicaule mixed with leguminous trees.
However, much of this has been removed, and nowadays Prosopis and Acacia farnesiana scrub and woodland, often in association with citrus groves, are preferred. The race Z. a. mearnsi is found widely in Prosopis and Acacia scrub with cacti, ‘palo verde’ Cercidium and willow Chilopsis linearis.
In Arizona, it also occupies chaparral scrub, woodlands with turbinella oak Quercus turbinella, and emory oak (Q. emoryi). In the southwestern desert, it is found in a habitat dominated by cacti and ‘palo verde’ with creosote bush Larrea tridentata, Prosopis, and saltbush Sarcobatus.
The migratory populations from the western portions of its range in Mexico and the U.S.A. It tends to occupy open desert scrub in winter, dominated by Prosopis and Acacia, together with columnar cacti. The eastern populations tend to winter in tropical scrub and mangroves south through Guatemala and Honduras to El Salvador.

Status and Distribution

Not threatened. However, in the U.S.A., up to 95% of its breeding habitat has been destroyed. It is still hunted in the U.S.A., where a strict imposition of hunting seasons together with habitat conservation has allowed populations to stabilize at about 530,000 birds. In Mexico, Central America, and throughout the Caribbean, it is also hunted but remains common across much of this region, although unlike in the U.S.A.
It is not the subject of conservation programs. The form Z. a. mearnsi is found in the U.S.A. in southern Arizona and New Mexico, southward into Mexico on Baja California, and to Guerrero and Puebla in the south-central regions of the country. Nominate asiatica ranges from the lower Rio Grande valley southwards to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and from there southwards through Central America to Costa Rica and Panama.
In Mexico, it is only absent from the humid southeast and is only found as a migrant in southern Veracruz and northern Oaxaca. In Guatemala, it is not found in the north, and in Honduras, it is absent from the north coast and eastern parts of the country. It is then found on the Pacific slope southward into northwest Costa Rica, where it is common. It is found south of Jaco and strays eastward to San José.
In Panama, this bird is found around the Gulf of Parita in Herrera and Cocle. In the Caribbean, it is widely distributed in the Greater Antilles. It is found throughout the Bahamas, where it is uncommon on the northern islands, and in Cuba, where it is more common in the east. It is also found in Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico.
On the smaller islands, it is common on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, San Andres, and Providencia. Moreover, it is rare in the Virgin Islands and the other Cayman Islands and is a vagrant to Saba. The white-winged dove is extending its range eastwards through the Caribbean and is to be expected on the Lesser Antilles.


Adult White-winged Dove male forehead: cinnamon-rufous grading to vinous bluish-grey on crown, nape, and hindneck Hindneck, upper mantle, and sides of neck glossed vinaceous and amethyst, with limited golden-green on sides of the neck. However, the lower mantle, scapulars, tertials, and inner wing coverts are olive-brown.
Greater wing coverts (except the innermost four or five) and outer median and lesser wing coverts are white, giving a broad white edge to the folded wing and a wing bar in flight. Outer secondaries and primaries are blackish-brown, grading to greyish-brown on inner secondaries.
Outer primaries narrowly edged white on outer webs, and secondaries tipped white, giving a white trailing edge in flight. Back, rump, and upper tail covers are dull bluish-grey with a brown wash grading to olive-brown on the inner rectrices. Tail only slightly graduated and broadly tipped white or greyish-white; outer feathers bluish-grey broadly tipped white with a narrow subterminal black bar. The chin and throat are whitish buff, with a short black streak below the eye.
Face vinous-pink grading to pale fawn-pink on the breast with a vinous wash, then to pale gray on the belly and under tail covers. The undertail is blackish, with broad white tips covering half the visible rectrices. Wing linings are grayish-brown; the underside of flight feathers is dull brown. Iris is reddish-brown or orangey-brown. Eye rings are broad, dull, and bluish-grey. Bill black. Legs and feet are bright coral-red.
The adult female is generally duller brown above, with a much reduced bloom to plumage in breeding plumage. Wings, back, and tail are very similar to males but darker and duller brown. The head is more uniform brown, extending to the mantle; the neck has reduced iridescence.
Juvenile birds are duller and darker brown overall, with rather more grayish underparts. Scapulars, wing coverts, and breast fringed buff-brown There was no iridescence on the hindneck. Eye rings are dull reddish-purple; feet and tarsi are dull red.
Measurements Overall length: male 270–310 mm, female 250–295 mm; wing 155–167 mm; tail 76–82 mm; bill 18 mm; tarsus 32 mm. Weight: 125–187 g.

Geographical Variation

White-winged Dove is considered conspecific with West Peruvian Dove until very recently, and certainly very close to all species, best separated on vocal and morphological differences coupled with highly disjunct distributions. Formerly, recognition was given to apparently darker birds from western Costa Rica and Panama under the name Z. a. australis, but there is much variation, and individuals may not always be clearly distinguished from the forms below. Two subspecies.
  1. a. mearnsi Baja California, the southern U.S.A. in Arizona and New Mexico southwards into Guerrero and Puebla in Mexico; also found on Isla Tres Marias off the west coast of Mexico) Larger and paler with reduced vinous bloom on the underparts and mantle than nominate.
  2. a. asiatica found in the southern U.S.A. in the Rio Grande valley in Texas, south along the Caribbean slope to the isthmus of Tehuantepec, from where it occurs on both slopes south-central America to Nicaragua; the Greater Antilles on Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico; plus the Bahamas, San Andres, and Providencia.
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    White-winged dove length is about 25–31 cm. It is also known as Mesquite Dove.  A medium-sized, heavy-bodied, broad-winged dove.
    The white-winged dove’s length is about 25–31 cm. It is also known as the Mesquite Dove.  A medium-sized, heavy-bodied, broad-winged dove Photo credit: Wikipedia
Reference: David Gibbs, Eustace Barnes, and John Cox, “A guide to the pigeons and doves of the World.”



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