Friday 21 December 2018

Eurasian Collared-Doves in Hamilton

On Tuesday I had plans to complete some arborist work in a residential neighbourhood in north Hamilton. Given the density of houses in this particular part of Hamilton, finding a rare bird species was certainly not on my radar! Around 3:55 PM I was nearly finished for the day and was about to catalog the last four trees on my route as the daylight slowly began to fade. Out of the corner of my eye I got on two doves in flight and I watched them disappear into a group of Norway Spruces located in one of the backyards. Despite not having binoculars and looking squarely at the doves for no more than two seconds, I was reasonably sure that they were Eurasian Collared-Doves. They appeared larger than the expected species, Mourning Dove, and I could clearly see the squared-off tail. I am pretty sure I saw a collar on their necks, but the looks were so brief and the light was poor so it was tough to say for sure. I waited for another five or ten minutes in the area but the doves never reappeared. Given the time of day, they were likely settling in for the night. Despite some uncertainly, I posted the sighting of the "probable" Eurasian Collared-Doves to Ontbirds and Hamiltonbirds.

Fortunately my hunch was correct and a group of birders were able to re-find the doves in the same area the next morning and confirm their identification as Eurasian Collared-Doves. Since the initial sighting, the doves have been seen frequently in the same general area. I originally spotted them in flight behind #528 Ferguson Avenue North, Hamilton. In recent days they have been seen in that general area as well as from nearby Wood Street. I obviously did not take any photos of the birds on Tuesday but Bob Curry has allowed me to post some of his photos that he took on Wednesday.

Eurasian Collared Dove - Ferguson Ave N, City of Hamilton, ON (photo taken by Bob Curry)

Eurasian Collared-Dove is a relatively recent arrival in North America, having first becoming established in  Florida in the 1980s. The species expanded northward and westward in the decades since, and now can be found in much of central and western North America; there are even resident populations in southern Alaska already. Their expansion into the northeastern states and southeastern Canada has been much slower, however. Ontario accepted its first record in 1993, while the province had a total of 36 OBRC-accepted records as of the end of 2017. In recent years there has been much speculation that the species would imminently become a regular part of our avifauna but it just has not happened yet. But with 19 of Ontario's 36 accepted records occurring in the last four years, perhaps this is changing.

This is the fourth record for the Hamilton Study Area, and second record for the City of Hamilton proper as far as I can discern. Previous records for the HSA include one seen in Burlington, Halton by John Keenleyside on June 24, 1998, a long-staying bird found by Stu Mackenzie at Vinemount, Hamilton from July 17 to September 1, 2007 and one found by George Naylor and Rhondda James at Caledonia, Haldimand on September 3, 2017. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these two birds to see if they will stick around and attempt to nest.

Eurasian Collared Dove (left) with Mourning Dove - Ferguson Ave N, City of Hamilton, ON (photo taken by Bob Curry)

Good luck to those that seek out these birds!

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