Saturday, November 28, 2009

Phantom Gluttons

I haven't been seeing all that many birds at my feeders, as my Project Feederwatch reports will attest, but I am certainly going through the food, especially the mixed seed. I bought 50 lbs of mixed seed just a couple of weeks ago and put out the last of it this morning.

Either I have some phantoms that like bird seed or some birds are visiting when I am not watching. Since the windows to the back and side of the house are not on the side where I have my office and require a trip to look out, that is entirely possible. Judging from the number of white-winged doves sitting on the wires and in the trees when I went out to fill up the feeders, my money is on them.

I can remember when I first moved to Wichita Falls, white-winged and Eurasian collared doves were not uncommon, but neither did one see them every day. How times have changed! Most birders consider both of these doves more pests than not. They travel in large flocks and can eat a LOT of bird seed.

The white-winged dove comes from Mexico and used to be seen almost entirely in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas, However, the birds have expended their trange northward, seemingly following the I-35 corridor.

There is some speculation that these birds are out competing the mourning doves and Inca doves. I have great doubt about the Incas as I am sure they tend to eat smaller seed than the much larger White-winged and Eurasian doves. I could see an argument for mourning doves. But I don't have any factual evidence to back that up. The local chapter of Texas Master Naturalists sent in some data on the two populations a few years ago, but we weren't informed of any results of the study, which is unfortunate. There is an interesting set of papers from a Dove Symposium in 2004 that discusses this briefly but comes to no conclusions.

I can remember seeing many more mourning doves in town in years past, but perhaps it merely seemed that way because I wasn't seeing the hordes of white-winged and Eurasian, as I do today. Once you are in the county, the birds are primarily mourning doves.

Good birding!

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