The small Inca dove is a unique looking New World dove. Each feather has two tones of gray, the main part being light gray and the tip a darker gray, which gives the bird a scaly look. Its tail is edged with white feathers. In flight, this dove fans out the tail, so the white edges can be seen. In flight, the chestnut wing patches can also be seen. Juveniles look similar to their parents but lack the scaled edges to their feathers and have yellow eyes instead of dark red, and they also lack chestnut colored primaries.
The Inca dove inhabits the southwestern part of the United States and Mexico, and across Central America on the Pacific side to Costa Rica. It lives in residential areas (cities, towns, lawns, parks, farmhouses, etc.), thorn forests, and savanna, and usually only in arid and semiarid habitats, as it has a low tolerance for cold.
Inca doves are most often found in small flocks or pairs. They spend most of their time on the ground eating seeds and grains. They are sensitive to cold and have developed several behaviors to help them survive, such as roosting close several other doves, forming a pyramid in a sheltered sunny site, facing downwind, huddling with feathers fluffed up, wing to wing, one bird on the back of another. They may form pyramids of two or three rows for about an hour. They will also sun themselves by raising one wing and rolling a little to one side. Then they roll back and lift the other wing. An Inca dove can also lower its body temperature, thus avoiding the effects of cold temperatures at night. These birds have a rapid, jerky flight. Their wings create a quiet rattling noise on take-off. Usually their coo-cooing song is heard when they are up on a high branch. Even while other birds are not making any noise, they continue to coo, to advertise their territories.
Inca doves are monogamous and pairs are believed to mate for life. When courting, the male struts, bows, bobs his head, and coos to the female. He keeps his tail vertical while fanning his tail feathers, showing off his black and white markings. An intruding male may be challenged to fight. Then the two males crouch in front of one another and make growling sounds, before battling for the female. Inca doves will breed and build nests year round. The male brings grasses and twigs for the female to make the nest, a fragile platform of sticks woven loosely together, lined with grasses. It may be high up in a thorny bush or a tree. 2 eggs are laid, and incubated by both parents for 12-14 days. Young are fed “pigeon milk” (crop milk) for a few days. Parents brood the hatchling for 7-9 days, the young leaving the nest after 12-16 days. Then the parents start another brood while the young join up with a flock of juveniles. These doves may have several broods each year if conditions are favorable.
At this time the Inca dove does not face any threats.
According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the Inca dove is around 2 million individuals. According to the All About Birds resource, the total breeding population size of the species is 3 million individuals, 33% of these living in the U.S., while 61% are in Mexico. Overall, currently Inca doves are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.
The Inca dove plays an important role in the ecosystem it lives in. Through its eating habits this species disperses seeds.