A white-winged dove, with the white edge of the wing plainly visible, sits on a branch in Arizona. They are one of at least five dove species in Arizona.

We were looking at a dove in my dad’s backyard near Yuma, Arizona. At first, I thought it was a mourning dove, then deciding it wasn’t, I looked for a collar on the back of the neck that would make it a Eurasian collared-dove. Then I finally saw the white edges of the wings and recalled another dove we have seen in Arizona in the past, the white-winged dove.

In Idaho, our choice of doves is usually limited to the first two species I thought about. With the pointy tail of the mourning dove and the broad, fan-like tail with a white stripe of the Eurasian collared-dove, the choices are pretty easy. Such is not the case in Arizona. Besides the white-winged dove, last year we identified the tiny Inca dove that some people mistakenly refer to as a baby mourning dove, and the common ground dove as well as the Eurasian collared-dove and the mourning dove. Had we pushed west to Los Angeles, we might have seen the introduced spotted dove as well.

Doves are members of the bird family Columbidae which is the exclusive lineage of doves and pigeons. It is also the only family in the order, Columbiformes, making them pretty unique in the bird world.

While Arizona outshines Idaho in species of doves, doves and pigeons occur worldwide. The bulk of the species can be found in India, and across southern Asia to Australia. But with 344 species in the family, one can expect a lot of variability. The doves we have seen belong to three different genera: Zenaida, Columbina and Streptopelia.

Members of this family are usually described as stout-bodied with short necks and bills. Most are handsome birds. In English, dove is the name given to the smaller species and pigeon to the larger, heavier species and a group of doves is called a, “dule” (pronounced, “dool”) after the French word for, mourning.

By far, the two most common doves in the United States are the mourning dove, with an estimated population of 350 million and the Eurasian collared-dove with uncounted millions. There may be several reasons for their success. First, both species have benefitted from human expansion and farming. Second, they are both long-lived species with the record known age for a mourning dove being 30 years and that for a collared-dove over 13 years. Finally, both species are capable of raising up to six broods (usually two nestlings per brood) a year in good habitat.

Like other doves and pigeons, both parents use crop milk to feed nestlings. Crop milk is a secretion of the cells of the esophagus mixed with partially digested seeds. This means that the parents don’t have to rely on specific foods such as insects to feed their chicks and this extends their breeding season.

Doves and pigeons can do something few other birds are capable of. In order to drink, most birds scoop up a bill full of water and tip their head back to swallow it. Doves and pigeons have the ability to drink head down as if using a straw. In addition, mourning doves have the ability to drink brackish water, expanding their range into more desert environments.

For me, mourning doves announce the beginning of the summer season. I am always glad to see them back around home. Any other doves are welcome too.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho