Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 6, 2006 Newsletter Written at Hacienda San Juan Lizarraga one kilometer east of Telchac Pueblo, Yucatán, MÉXICO and issued from Hotel Reef Yucatan 13 kms to the north

During any brief walk around the hacienda you're bound to see several to many White-winged Doves and Ruddy Ground-doves. These species are abundant here because, like American Robins and Cardinals, they have adapted to "disturbed habitats" created by people. Ruddy Ground-doves nest atop a light fixture suspended from the ceiling of the "Pavilion" where I sleep, and beneath the building's eaves.

If you hike a mile or two down little dirt trails through the scrub to where the vegetation is a little more intact with a greater diversity of taller bushes and small trees, you start seeing other pigeon and dove species.

In the scrub south of here you need to check every pigeon and dove perched in a snag because sometimes they won't be White-wingeds. With rounder bodies and smaller heads they'll look almost like park pigeons, with gray-violet heads, slaty blue-gray bellies and blackish tails, but they'll be Red-billed Pigeons. From a distance their bills look white, but with a spot of red at the base. This species resembles the park pigeon because it's in the same genus, Columba. Ecologically it's a specialist of forests and semiopen areas, and is distributed from northern Mexico to Costa Rica. You can see it at http://www.schmoker.org/BirdPics/Photos/Doves/RBPI1.jpg.

A mile or two north of the hacienda sometimes you flush from dense brush a White-tipped Dove, shaped like a cross between a small-headed, chubby-bodied pigeon and a larger-headed, more slender-bodied dove. This bird has yellow eyes, a gray-violet head and chest, brownish back and pale gray underparts. It prefers forest with brushy understory, but here it'll settle for our dense, shoulder-high tangles of bushes and vines if there's a patch of low trees nearby. See http://www.tsuru-bird.net/doves/dove_white-tipped1.jpg.

Around town sometimes you see Common Ground-doves, about half the size of a regular dove or pigeon. They are mostly brownish gray with curious scale patterns on their chests, orange bills and when they fly their wing feathers are rusty colored. This little critter has accommodated himself very well to human society. http://moumn.org/temp/Common_Ground-Dove-1.html.

So, in this area the pigeons and doves I've seen are the regular park pigeon or Rock Dove, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged dove, White-tipped Dove, Ruddy Ground-dove and the Common Ground-dove.

Also found in northwestern Yucatan but so far having escaped me are Zenaida Doves found only along the coast, North America's Mourning Doves overwintering here, and Blue Ground-doves, who may not get this far north.

That's eight or nine pigeon and dove species, and there are others farther east and south where there's more rainfall and higher forest. This is pretty different from the situation in most of North America where there's only the Mourning Dove and park pigeons.