A couple of weeks ago on January 12, 2009, I got a call from a friend who said he needed help identifying a bird. He was looking a dove and he gave a remarkably good description of a Ruddy Ground-Dove… The only problem was that Ruddy Ground-Dove is an exceedingly rare bird in Texas. It’s only been documented a dozen or so times, with all records coming from the lower Rio Grande Valley, Big Bend, and near El Paso.
In less than five minutes, I was in the car and on my way to the location. When I got there, the bird had just flown (Murphy’s Law, of course). So I did what any person with other responsibilities would do. I waited for four hours enjoying Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows.
My patience was really, and I mean really, rewarded.
Yep, this is a Ruddy Ground-Dove alright. (And I’ve got a host of additional pictures in the gallery.)
For those that aren’t familiar with these small doves, they look an awful lot like a similar species — Common Ground-Doves. The main field marks are:
- An unscaled throat and upper breast (Common Ground Doves are noticeably scaled)
- Black base to the bill (Common Ground Doves have a pink base to the bill)
- Black streaks on the scapulars (these feathers are unstreaked in Common Ground-Dove)
- White tips to the greater wing covets (not easily visible in the above photo but seen other other pictures in the gallery)
The color (reddish on the body with a very gray head) is also distinctive, but this can be misleading as some Common Ground-Doves can have a very pinkish wash on the breast.
While this new record (if and when accepted) is by far the most northern in Texas, and totally unprecedented so far from the Rio Grande, another Ruddy Ground-Dove turned up at Lake Balmorhea in west Texas just last October. This begs the question. Is there a push of Ruddy Ground-Doves out of Mexico into west Texas this winter? If one could put 10,000 birders out into the mesquite grassland habitats of west Texas, would more Ruddy Ground-Doves turn up?
At any rate, this bird is still hanging around some two weeks later. It will be interesting to see how long it stays.