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Dove finds new home in Alabama

By By BEN NORMAN
Outdoors columnist
A small flock flew around the edge of the corn field where we were dove hunting, but I hesitated to shoot because they appeared too large for dove. I assumed they must be pigeons that belonged to someone nearby. A hunter on the next stand bagged one of the "pigeons" and walked down to my stand to show me what appeared to be a dove but was much larger than our native morning dove.
This was my first introduction to the Eurasian Collared-Dove. This dove has become fairly common across the southeast in the last few years and is often bagged on the traditional dove hunt.
The Eurasian Collared-Dove was first documented in Bulgaria and was confined to a relatively small area around the Black and Aegean seas. It was later introduced to West Germany and into Western Europe. Several breeding pairs were released in the Bahamas in the early 1970's to establish a breeding flock. They soon spread through the Caribbean and eventually made their way to Florida in the early 1980's. In the last 20 years they have increased in number and expanded their range across the southern United States.
The Eurasian Collard-Dove prefers to feed around grain bins or other places where grain is stored. If grain storage facilities are not readily available they will feed on waste grain in fields much like the morning dove. Collard doves do not mix with or associate with morning doves.
Distinguishing the Eurasian Collard-Dove from the more common morning dove can be difficult. The two most distinguishable characteristics are their larger size and the distinct black band or collar around the Eurasian Dove's neck.
Another way to identify these new arrivals is by their distinct call, which sounds like "kuk-koooo-kook" with distinct short pauses between calls.
Morning doves have a longer pause between their familiar "koo koo koo" and call usually only when resting or landing. The Eurasian Collared-Dove call is sharper, louder and often made while in flight as well as when landing.
Hunters will find the Eurasian Collared-Dove a welcome bonus as their number seems to be steadily increasing in this area. They are a bonus to the daily bag limit because Alabama game laws do not regulate the season or bag limit for this dove.
Hunters may bag these doves in addition to the allowable limit of morning doves. However, one must be certain they have properly identified this new dove if they are bagging one after obtaining a limit of morning doves. Failure to do so could result in a fine if they bag another morning dove.
From all reports, the Eurasian Collard-Dove tastes like a morning dove and it doesn't take as many of these larger doves to feed a family.
If populations continue to increase, and no problems are encountered, the Eurasian Collared-Dove may end up joining the Bobwhite and morning dove as Alabama game birds.