It’s a bright, sunny morning at your hotel in the Central Valley and the birds are singing in the garden. A few are cooing like doves similar to ones you know from home. A visual search of the tree tops reveals a few obvious dove species with white tips to the tails. When they take flight, their wings flash a white stripe and you realize why they are called White-winged Doves. This is the same bird species that Stevie Nicks sang about; a bird you will see and hear many times in Costa Rica.
A medium-sized bird, the White-winged Dove is a light creamy brown with a white tip to its tail and a broad white stripe in each wing. It has small black markings on the face and a close look reveals light blue skin around the eye. In Costa Rica, the White-winged Dove is most similar in appearance to the Mourning Dove. Much less common than the White-winged Dove in Costa Rica, the Mourning Dove is smaller with a pointed tail. The Inca Dove also has a white tip to the tail but is smaller, grayer and has reddish-brown in the wings.
Behavior in Costa Rica
White-winged Doves feed in fruiting trees and forage on the ground for seeds and grain in Costa Rica. They are fast-flying birds that quickly take to the air when frightened. Like most doves, this species has an interesting courtship display; the male puffs out its throat and bows down, spreading his wings and tail to reveal the white patches while he sings his mournful song.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the White-winged Dove was historically present in the dry northwest. With deforestation and increased urbanization, it has spread to the Central Valley and even some areas on the Caribbean slope. This is a non-forest species that prefers light woodland, parks, towns and savannas with scattered trees. It is found from the lowlands to around 1,200 meters.