White-Winged Dove

Zenaida asiatica

This bird’s native range extends from the south-western USA through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Most of the USA’s birds are summer visitors, choosing to spend the winter in Mexico, though in southeastern Arizona and in southern New Mexico and Texas along the Rio Grande River Valley they are year-round residents.

The application of the Latin name for this species (asiatica) is a mystery to me. We defined the word as “a native or inhabitant of Asia”, yet this species is not Asian. Its origins are in the New World. Science recognises three subspecies of this bird. Z. a. asiatica lives in the southern US to Nicaragua and the Caribbean, Z. a. australis lives in Costa Rica and Panama, and Z. a. mearnsi lives in southwestern US, western Mexico, and Baja California.

During the early twentieth century, habitat loss and excessive hunting brought the population of these birds down from 12 million to under a million in 1939. Since that time, hunting practices have been better managed and the birds have adapted to urban and suburban life. In 2001, observers estimated the population to be 2.2 million. It’s still a far cry from the late nineteenth century, but it’s moving in a good direction.

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