FORT SILL, Okla., July 21, 2016 -- Doves love birdseed. But they don't fit too well on tube bird feeders because the perches are too narrow. So I scatter seed on the ground for them, and at times I'll have eight white-winged doves happily pecking at the "bar" below while the sparrows and finches, the cardinals and an occasional tufted titmouse or Carolina chickadee, gorge themselves from the hanging feeders. Once I had mourning and Eurasian collared doves with them, and twice I've seen a lone Inca dove.Incas are a mainly southwestern dove, smaller than the white-winged, with thin black bills. One unique attribute is the way their body feathers are darker colored at the edges, giving them a scaly look. It's really quite lovely.Inca doves are known for creating little pyramids of themselves to keep warm, or maybe just to be extra friendly. I've seen this at Big Bend National Park in Texas. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says these pyramids can be three layers high and consist of up to 12 birds. We are at the northeastern edge of their range, according to the Audubon bird map, and they prefer suburban yards and urban parks.Mourning doves are one of the most widespread in the 48 states, found year-round in all but a few north-central states which host them only in summer. They have long pointed tails and are often seen perched on utility wires or fences.In my yard, however, they are outnumbered by the white-winged doves, which do not even show up on the Audubon map for southern Oklahoma. Hmmm.
They are large silky brown birds with bright red legs, red eyes and blue eye shadow. Of course, the most notable field mark for sitting birds is the white crescent at the edge of the wing, which shows dramatically in flight contrasting with the dark primary feathers, and complemented by the white edges of the fanned-out tail. As doves go, they are striking.The Eurasian collared dove, as you might gather from its name, is an immigrant, arriving in Florida in 1980s and spreading to about two-thirds of the continental United States. They are a chalky gray, paler than the other three, with a black collar that extends around the back of the neck.The four doves can be readily distinguished by their calls. The mourning dove's sounds like a lament, hence its name. (Ooh aah ooooh ooooh ooooh). The white-winged asks "who cooks for youuuu?" and the collared dove has "hoo hooo hoo" on repeat. The two-note "coo-coo" of the Inca dove can be read as "no hope."Feeding birds is a popular hobby in America, and even if you don't want to spend money on birdfeeders, just scattering seed on the ground will attract a wide variety of avian citizens. Keep the "bar" stocked, add some cracked corn and peanuts, and the squirrels will join the sideshow. You can enjoy your own Dove Bar while you watch.