|Inca Dove (Columbina inca)|
L=8.25" (21cm), smallest of the three doves spotlit here. Sexes
similar. Overall grayish with scalloped appearance. In flight, wings
are rust-colored (and rusty-sounding). Call sounds like a repeated "no
Doves and pigeons feed their young "crop milk." Crop milk consists of fluid-filled cells that slough off the lining of the crop (a food storage chamber off the esophagus). Young birds will stick their bills into the throats of their parents and suck up the milk. Very few birds can suck; next time you watch birds drinking, notice how most birds have to tilt back their head to allow the water to flow down their throats, whereas doves can just leave their bill in the water and suck up the water. Adult birds also will stick their bill into each other's mouth as part of their courtship ritual (this is called billing -- see above). Doves need to drink water, but they can still survive in the desert because they are such strong, fast fliers that they can fly to sources of water. Note to bird feeders: Our doves are susceptable to trichonomiasis, a fatal disease caused by a parasite passed from dove to dove in their feed/water or during billing. The parasites cause the doves to starve to death as their throats swell with the parasite. You may wish to refrain from feeding bird seed during the warm months when the parasistes can survive longer in the feed/water. Another option is to make sure bird baths are kept very clean and spread bird seed out on the ground.