Inca Dove

Columbina inca

Despite the name, the Inca Dove’s range does not meet the range of the former South American empire. Rather, its range more closely meets the Mayan or Aztec empire’s former occupancy in Mexico and the American Southwest. These warm weather loving birds will huddle closely in temperatures below 40°F, even stacking themselves into small pyramids.

Because Inca Doves at the south end of their range are darker, science once considered those birds as a separate subspecies. This is no longer the accepted view, and science now believes them to be monotypic.

In the last 100 years, we’ve seen the Inca Dove expand its range both northward and southward. They seem to benefit from a loose association with human settlement. Perhaps this is because of the availability of water that goes with our “modifications” to the environment.

If only given a quick or partial view, this small dove might be mistaken for a Common Ground Dove. Both birds show a scaled or scalloped head, neck and breast, but the Inca Dove takes the look to a whole new level, with scaled patterns extending over most of its body.

I’d not met an Inca Dove until my trip to Texas during the spring of 2020. The encounter happened while I was in Marathon (Texas) visiting the Gage Gardens. Had it not been for the calls I heard from these birds, I might have dismissed them for Common Ground Doves.

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