Zenaida asiatica, Saak pakal (Maya).

Dawn awakes in the Yucatán to sounds from different bird species. One common call originates from the foot long White-winged Dove. Although this species sings most of the day, it is not the Mourning Dove that people recognize from the USA. That dove has a long pointed tail and black spots scattered on its wings. The larger White-winged Dove exhibits a lovely white crescent along each wing margin, a white band across the tail tip, and upon closer inspection, an orange eye surrounded with blue eye shadow and a Cindy Crawford black beauty mark below the eyes.

The White-winged Dove ranges from the Southwest US down to South America. Many in the US overwinter in the tropics. Both the really abundant residents and a winter migratory population live in the Yucatán. It eats mostly seeds, grains, and some fruits.

From February through August, the White-winged Doves mate.  Males call to attract a female. One primary coo from the male is, “Who cooks for you?”. Frankly, I translate it in honor of a nearby Maya ruin,”dzi-bil-chal-tun.” Day in, day out, those calls persist. The male also signals a variety of displays to attract a female. For example, the male lands on a perch, bows, lifts his tail up and down, or fans out his wings and tail as he coos. I’ve noticed these repeated displays many times in my Centro backyard.

Once the female chooses her swaggery mate, she selects the final nesting site within the male’s eagerly defended territory. This pair must be the laziest nest builders because the male brings the female one twig or occasional tidbit of vegetation at a time. She makes a see-through “platform” in a bush, a fork of a tree, or it may teeter-totter on a limb. Many times I discover broken eggs in our backyard. Of course a predator, such as an iguana or a Great-tailed Grackle, may have disrupted the nest. But most of the time, it’s just sloppy nest building.

Typically two eggs are laid and both parents incubate. Before the chicks hatch in about two weeks, an amazing transformation happens in the crop of each parent. The crop is an enlarged sac in the esophagus. Crop walls become swollen with cells of proteins and fat. When the chicks hatch, the parents immediately feed them with the cells that slough off to form thick curds called “crop milk.” Chicks can leave the nest in two more weeks and begin nesting in two or three months which adds to the cacophony of the morning. Okay, maybe they are “morning” doves.

Happy Birding!

Here is the sound link: “Who cooks for you?”

Nature’s wonders inspire Cherie Pittillo, a nature photographer, zoologist, and author. Follow her friendly, feathered journey as she discovers the birds of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Editorial and Photography by Cherie Pittillo for use in Yucatán Today

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