It is always exciting to see a new bird visit your feeders, land on your fence or otherwise poke around your yard, and today I was thrilled to finally welcome a bird I’d been waiting to see in my yard for quite some time – the common ground-dove. I knew they were in the neighborhood, even as close as nearly on the same block, but until a brief foray this morning, I’d never confirmed their touchdown in my yard.
I had only just opened my shade in my office – I’m both privileged and cursed to have a view of my semi-forested backyard from my desk, which is a great view, but also rather distracting from the work I ought to be doing – when I noticed a flutter by the base of the large laurel oak tree. I saw a small, grayish body and round head bobbing a bit, and at first I though it might be a bluebird or similar passerine. By the time I’d snatched my binns and field guide from a nearby bench and was back to the window, there were two flutters, quickly resolved into these tiny doves, and unmistakable as they wandered through the undergrowth, pecking away and seeking any sustenance.
They are charming birds, like miniature mourning doves, but with their own distinctiveness. Common ground-doves lack the long, tapered tail of their sad cousins, but share the same soft gray coloration, albeit with richer tones on the underparts. They have iridescent spotting on the wings, also like mourning doves, but the scaliness on their nape and breast is very different. The red-orange bill with a black tip is also a key field mark, and I saw it easily. When these birds fly, it is even more apparent that you haven’t seen a mourning dove – their smaller size is highlighted much more in flight, and of course the tail is blunt, but even more distinct is the rich rustiness under the wings. I was fortunate to see all these field marks as the dinky duo foraged for a few moments, then flew up to the fence for a brief pause before departing. It was a short visit, but a well worthwhile one, and a new yard bird for the list!
What has been your most recent, most memorable, or most exciting yard bird? Share in the comments!