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Doves in California

9 Types Of DOVES In California (ID Guide With Photos)

Did you recently come across a dove in the state of California, and want to know what species it was?

Identifying doves in the Golden State is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many dove species in California (as well as closely related pigeon species).

To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common doves of California in this article.

Types of doves found in California

What are the types of doves in California?

The 9 types of doves found in California are:

  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • White-winged Dove
  • Inca Dove
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Band-tailed Pigeon
  • Spotted Dove (rare)
  • African Collared-Dove (rare)

While several of these doves are year round residents of California, others are summer visitors during the breeding season. 

And two of them are very rarely seen in the state (more on that below). Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these doves:

Mourning Dove

Scientific name: Zenaida macroura

Photo of Mourning Dove adult

The Mourning Dove is one of the most common birds in North America, especially around farms and suburban areas. 

This bird is almost entirely grayish-brown with a pale underside. The wings and the tail are pointed, and there is a small black dot on the side of the face.

When viewed up close, a grayish blue eyering as well as pink legs and toes are great distinguishing features of the Mourning Dove.

It is a common breeding bird throughout California, and can be seen year-round. During the winter it also frequents open woodland, but avoids large forests.

These birds are often seen perched on telephone wires, or walking around on the ground while foraging for seeds.

You can readily attract these birds to your yard by scattering millet, safflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, and cracked corn on the ground.

But if you do, make sure there are no bushes or shrubs too close to the feeding area, as cats like to use cover to stalk and pounce on these birds while they are feeding on the ground.

Common Ground Dove

Scientific name: Columbina passerina

Photo of Common Ground Dove

The Common Ground Dove is a small California bird that’s about the size of a sparrow.

It is a species of southern US states, and can be found breeding in southern California.

The overall coloration of these birds is brownish gray, with chestnut tones on the wings. In combination with their small size, the subdued dusty color makes these birds hard to spot on the ground.

Often you won’t notice these birds until you flush them from the ground, and see them flying away. 

Another great way to identify them is by their repetitive coo-ing call, which is audible even if you can’t catch a glimpse of the bird since it’s hidden in thick scrub.

Common Ground Doves are common breeding birds in California and year-round residents in the southern parts of the state.

They readily visit ground bird feeders that offer shelled sunflower seeds and other seeds.

In their original desert habitat, these birds are opportunistic breeders that raise their young after plentiful rainfall leads to an abundance of seeds.

They nest on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to predators. This explains why these birds are so well camouflaged, which allows them to blend in with their surroundings.

White-winged Dove

Scientific name: Zenaida asiatica

Photo of White-winged Dove

The White-winged Dove used to be a bird of remote desert areas.

But as a result of adapting to man-made habitats, it is a summer visitor and breeding bird in cities and towns across the southern US, including southeast California.

This bird is almost entirely light gray, except for a bright white stripe on its wings. 

The white areas on the wings are most prominent when it takes to the air, and are a great feature for identifying this species.

It also has a black spot on its cheek, and if viewed close enough, its bright orange eye with a light blue eyering is a great distinguishing feature.

These birds are frequently found in urban and suburban areas with suitable nesting trees, and are most often encountered foraging on the ground.

During the winter, these birds fly south to spend the cold season in Mexico.

Inca Dove

Scientific name: Columbina inca

Photo of Inca Dove

The Inca Dove is a bird of the southwest, and California marks the western end of its range. It is a common bird in the southern part of the state, and is often found in human settlements.

They are uniformly brown birds, except for the dark rims of their feathers, which give them a “scaly” appearance.

These birds were originally desert birds, but have become common park birds, and also visit bird feeders that offer seed mixes.

They are very comfortable living close to humans, and will accept a variety of human cultivated areas as their habitat. As a result, these birds have been expanding their range in California.

These birds don’t tolerate cold temperatures very well, and roost together in tight huddles to conserve warmth if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Scientific name: Streptopelia decaocto

Photo of Eurasian Collared-Dove

The Eurasian Collared-Dove was originally not a native bird of North America.

But after it was accidentally introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s, the Eurasian Collared-Dove colonized Florida in the 1980s, and then continued its spread throughout most of North America.

It is a common breeding bird in urban habitats of California, where it is often found in the same areas as Mourning Doves.

You can tell this bird apart from Mourning Doves by its black collar on the neck, as well as the white patches on the tail, which are most prominent when it is flushed from the ground.

While these doves aren’t migratory, they are highly dispersive after the breeding season, and as a result show up in areas where they normally don’t breed.

You can readily attract these birds to your backyard by offering bird seeds on the ground.

Rock Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia

Photo of Rock Pigeon

The Rock Pigeon is the most common dove species in the world, as it has adapted extremely well to urban environments, and is found in large numbers in cities all around the globe.

These pigeons are a common sight on many public squares and on the sidewalks of city streets, where they feed on scraps of food that are discarded by humans.

This is another pigeon that isn’t an original native of North America, but was introduced by European settlers in the early 17th Century. 

These pigeons are easily attracted to bird feeders on the ground that offer grains or dried bread. But in many cities Rock Pigeons are considered a pest, and you may not be allowed to feed them.

The increase of Peregrine Falcons breeding in large cities across North America is largely due to the fact that feral Rock Pigeons provide such a rich food source for these raptors in California.

Rock Doves are also famous for their homing abilities, and were used by humans in previous centuries for carrying messages.

Band-tailed Pigeon

Scientific name: Patagioenas fasciata

Photo of Band-tailed Pigeon

The Band-tailed Pigeon is a bird of the Pacific coast and the Southwestern USA.

The Band-Tailed Pigeon is the only native pigeon of California, and is found throughout the state.

It is a migratory bird in the north of the state, and a year-round resident in the south of the state.

Band-tailed Pigeons used to be shy forest birds, but have become more and more comfortable around humans, and are now commonly observed visiting platform feeders.

These pigeons are most often found in mature forests, where they forage at the top of tall trees, which makes them difficult to observe.

When flying, they resemble rock pigeons, but can be identified by the pale band at the end of their tail.

Another great distinguishing feature of Band-tailed Pigeons is their partial white neck ring, although juvenile pigeons don’t have this characteristic.

Spotted Dove (rare)

Scientific name: Streptopelia chinensis

Photo of Spotted Dove

The Spotted Dove is originally from South and Southeast Asia, but was introduced to California in 1917.

The first breeding pairs in California were found in Los Angeles, and they subsequently spread to Santa Barbara and San Diego.

However, the California population of Spotted Doves has declined dramatically in recent years, with no apparent reason as far as scientists can tell. 

They are most commonly found in urban habitats, including parks, golf courses, and lare gardens. 

Similar to many other dove species, they forage by walking on the ground while looking for seeds.

African Collared-Dove (rare)

Scientific name: Streptopelia roseogrisea

Photo of African Collared Dove

While the African Collared-Dove is very rarely seen in the wild in California, there are regular sightings of escaped birds in the state.

However, it’s difficult to confirm these reports, since these birds look very similar to Eurasian Collared-Doves.

You can distinguish between them by referring to the color of their undertail coverts. While the African Collared-Dove has white undertail coverts, the Eurasian Collared-Dove has dark gray undertail coverts.

An even better way to tell these birds apart is by their call. The soft purring song of the African Collared-Dove sounds quite different from the cooing song of the Eurasian Collared Dove.

See also: The parrots of California


And there we have the doves found in the state of California.

The varied habitats of California are home to more than 600 different species of birds, and doves make up a significant proportion of this rich avifauna.

Including both doves and pigeons, these birds play a vital role in the ecology of their habitats.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the black birds of California.

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