Photograph by Tom Vezo, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection
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An Inca dove perches on a log in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Photograph by Tom Vezo, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection

Inca Dove

About the Inca Dove

The conspicuously long-tailed, small dove is encountered in urban areas of the Southwest near the Mexican border. Monotypic. Length 8.3".


A small gray dove with black fringes on the feathers of both the upper and underparts forming an obvious “scaled” appearance. In flight, shows chestnut on the upper and underside of the wing like common ground-dove; however, also shows prominent white edges on the long tail. Adult male: crown and face pale blue-gray and breast tinged lightly with pink; iris reddish; narrow eye ring blue-gray; bill blackish; and feet bright red. Adult female: similar, but duller on head and breast. Juvenile: duller with a slight brownish tinge overall, and “scaling” less noticeable.

Similar Species

Its long tail provides a very different shape from that of the ground-dove, but beware of the Inca dove’s regrowing lost tail; it can be mistaken for a ground-dove, and the dark bill along with black on the underwing coverts could lead the unwary to identify such a bird as a ruddy ground-dove. The scaling of the upperparts is unique.


Call: a long series of disyllabic kooo-poo that can be interpreted as “no hope.”

Status and Distribution

Common resident across the southern U.S. from southern Nevada to western Louisiana; primarily around human habitation and in city parks. Terrestrial, feeding on the ground; fairly tame, and easily observed. Breeding: nest is a small fragile floor of twigs placed in a low bush or shrub; bears 2 white eggs; 2–3 broods each year. Migration: resident, but species expanding range northward, especially in the far west. Vagrant: casual to southern Utah, Nebraska, and Arkansas; also recorded in North Dakota and Ontario.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006