They are coming. Probably.

Well, they should come. After all, they've reached Idaho and beyond on their way from Florida.

"They" are Eurasian collared doves. A non-native (exotic) dove that migrated without assistance from the Bahamas in the late 1970s to Florida. A quarter-century later, it has pioneered most of the United States, and reached the Pacific. Resident in Riverton and Lander. Found in Rigby, Idaho. But so far - today someone may spot one - not yet in Jackson Hole.

Whatever possesses a bird species to expand its range is usually unknown. Eurasian collared doves were apparently content living on the Indian sub-continent and around 1900 started to move out to new territories. By 1950, they were in Europe and the British Isles. Today they can even be found  living above the Arctic Circle, in Scandinavia. Oh, well, that can't be tougher conditions than year-round in Riverton.

For, you see, once finding a niche they stay year-round, not migrating as do mourning doves, for instance. If you were to spot a dove in the Hole today, you should check its field marks (in a newly published field guide). Mourning doves don't winter here, for one thing. For another, Eurasian collared doves are larger than mourning doves and a much paler grayish-buff color. Plus, of course, a black mark on the back of the neck ... the collar. The tail is long and blunt-ended, not pointed. Adult male Eurasian collared doves have unmarked heads, blackish bills and darker, brownish upper parts. The primaries are noticeably darker than the rest of the wing, but the underparts of the wings are pale. Underparts are pale gray. The bird's tail has obvious black, as the National Geographic Complete Guide to Birds states, at the base when seen from below. The feet are dull reddish. Adult females are essentially entirely similar.

This dove's voice is described as a monotonous repeated cuk-cooo-cook with the emphasis on the middle note. A harsher note is sometimes given in flight: a kwrrr. The nest is a flimsy platform of twigs in trees or on man-made structures, and multiple broods yearly are the norm.

The 2004-05 Audubon Christmas Bird Count found Eurasian collared doves in 32 states and four Canadian provinces, in the south and western parts of the continent. Interesting that the northeastern tier was not yet invaded from a start in Florida.

It's not a surprise that the Eurasian collared dove hasn't reached Jackson Hole yet. For wild things the Hole remains relatively isolated. It took a prolonged warm/dry cycle to bring house finches and breeding turkey vultures (and a thistle invasion to support large numbers of goldfinches.) However, keep an eye and ear out.

Field Notes: On the 2006 Jackson Hole Christmas Bird Count, the final tally of species censused was 54. More than 3,000 individual birds counted. A good job by everyone, especially by the compiler, Jan Hayse. Thanks all.

Anent the topic of this piece, Riverton found 155 Eurasian collared doves on its Count. One hundred six in Cheyenne, some in Casper and Lovell. And 16 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. None in Teton Valley, Idaho (which found 57 species on its Jan. 1 Count, fide Susan Patla).

Robins are in the Hole early this winter; Stephanie and Kirby Williams surprised themselves and a flock of some 50 robins twice in South Park. On Sunday, Ron Gessler saw a single robin in Hoback Junction, either singing or complaining.

It's also a goldfinch winter so far. Many lucky feeding stations have goldfinches. Kim Springer is the latest observer to remark on them; Saturday on the west bank. Chuck Schaap found a band of gold-crowned kinglets up Cache Creek on New Year's Day. Dan Fulton welcomed a boreal owl that day; Fall Creek Road. A small group of chukars was along Mosquito Creek; Gary Amadon (fide John Simms).

Connie Leavell saw her first over-wintering great blue heron on Jan. 3, and she's a native. On Jan. 2, Peg Donaldson and her son Lee noticed a pair of wood ducks in South Park (fide Bru Wicks). Bob and Bette Caesar were relieved finally to have Stellar's jays at their feeders; Ditch Creek. A white-throated sparrow and a junco have been at Putzi Harrington's feeders all year. A couple dozen evening gros beaks appeared at Ken Koop's feeders Sunday.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in Jackson Town Hall. Shared natural history observation, socializing, review of the Bird Count and a program. Leine Stikkel will show a BBC production, "Beaver: The Master Builder," in the filming of which she was involved. Everyone is welcome.

 © Bert Raynes 2007

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Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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