Inca Dove

(photo gallery below)

The Inca dove is named after the Inca Empire, but that really has nothing to do with where this little dove is found. It is similar to the Common Ground Dove except that it has a very long tail and scalloped edgings to its feathers.

Inca Dove|Saguaro National Park|Tucson, AZ


The Inca Dove is a small, slender dove with a gray-brown body covered in scale-like feathers on the breast, head, and back.  One half of the Inca Dove’s length is its tail.  The tail is edged in white feathers. In flight, the dove fans out its tail and the white edging can be seen.  You can also see the chestnut-colored wing patches when it is in flight. The Inca Dove has a gray to black bill with a dark red iris. The legs are short; both the legs and feet are pinkish. The throat is pale buff with a pink wash.

Juveniles are similar to their parents. They lack the scaled edging to their feathers and their eyes are yellow instead of dark red.  They also lack the chestnut colored primaries.

Range & Habitat

Inca Doves can be found in Central America, Mexico, and in the southern states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana; they are expanding their territories both north and south.  Their habitat is arid and semi-arid areas, bushy woodlands, and cultivated areas.  They are often found around people in urban and suburban areas, and are commonly seen around bird feeders.


Inca Doves spend most of their time on the ground.  Their heads bob as they walk around and forage for food. They eat mainly seeds, grains, insects, and fruit.  Most of their liquid is from the food they eat.  If necessary, they will fly 10 miles or more to find water.  They are seen mostly in pairs during the breeding season, but will gather into flocks of up to 50 birds in the winter. They are able to stand both the intense heat and the cold. In cold weather you might see them staying warm by standing on top of each other in a pyramid formation.  They have a rapid, but jerky flight.   Their wings make a quiet rattling noise as they take off.  Their coo-cooing song is usually heard when they are perched on a high branch. They continue to coo, even when other birds are silent, to advertise their territories.

Breeding & Nesting

Inca Doves are believed to mate for life.  The male struts, bows, head bobs, and coos at the female.  He holds his tail vertical and fans out his tail feathers to show her its black and white markings.  Intruding males may be challenged to a fight.  The two males will crouch down in front of each other, make growling sounds, and eventually will battle for the female.

The male brings twigs and grasses for the female to build her nest. The nest is a flimsy platform of sticks barely woven together, and lined with grasses.  The nest may be high in a tree or in a thorny bush.  The female lays 2 eggs, which both parents incubate for 12-14 days. The young are fed “pigeons milk” for several days. Pigeon’s milk is a rich, milky substance made in the crop and regurgitated by the parents. The young fledge in about 14 days; the parents stay close for about a week.  Then the parents move on to start another brood and the young join a flock of juveniles. Inca Doves may have several broods a year if the conditions are favorable.

Photo Gallery Inca Dove

(click to enlarge)