Ringed Turtle-Dove

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Ringed turtle-dove

—image courtesy of Alene Knox

Birds that resemble mourning doves and that also have neck rings are tough to identify: they can either be ringed turtle-doves or Eurasian collared-doves. The two species are difficult to tell apart unless you can see underneath the wings and tail, and even then identification is tough because interbreeding occurs and the resulting hybrids further confuse the issue.

Reader Alene Knox spotted this unusual visitor (left) in her daughter's Idaho garden. Although its distinguishing features can't be determined for sure, the bird is probably the ringed turtle-dove, a domesticated species that often escapes into the wild. Often the ringed turtle-dove doesn't fare well on its own and has to depend on humans for food.

The Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is an import that's rapidly spreading across the U.S. Originally from India, it established itself in Europe in the 1900s, was introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s, spread to the southeastern U.S., and has now been spotted throughout the country. In the Great Backyard Bird Count of 2008, 83 Eurasian collared doves were seen in Idaho.

The ringed turtle-dove is a couple of inches smaller than the Eurasian collared-dove (11 inches, compared to 13 inches), is pale gray (compared to the darker gray of the Eurasian collared-dove) and has a white breast.

information on bird science and behavior