Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)

The Common Ground-Dove is very similar to related species Ruddy and Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, however the Common is lighter in coloration, with a pink bill that is diagnostic; it also shows a scaled pattern in the throat and neck, which is missing from the other ground doves. Also similar to these species is the Inca Dove, which even behaves similarly as it forages most of the time on the ground, however the scaled appearance in the whole body should preclude any confusion. The male is ligher than the female, which looks grayish. All ground doves feature dark spots in the tips of primaries and secondaries, which look like a curved line when the wings are closed, although the Common’s should area spots are more numerous and do not form a line.

Plain-breasted Ground-Dove (Columbina minuta)

Although very similar in coloration and shape to the Ruddy Ground-Dove, this species is the smallest of all ground doves. They lack the scaled appearance of the Common and the Inca Doves. Their body is mostly uniform brown, with the male having a light gray head, and the female being duller in coloration overall. They both have red legs and a short yellowish bill. They sport black markings on the upper side of the wings. The female is even slightly smaller than the male. They forage by walking fast through the ground, picking out seeds, insects and fruit remains as they go. When startled, they fly away a few meters and land onto the ground to continue feeding.

Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata)

The Eared Dove is a relatively large dove, similar in size and shape to the White-winged Dove that we have in Costa Rica, but without the characteristic white on the wing. Its body is mostly grayish with olive tones on the back and wings, along with black spots. Its legs are red and the bill is short and a little bit curved down. An interesting feature is that it has some iridescence on the sides of the throat, which can be revealed when the neck is stretched out. They frequently forage on the ground, picking out seeds, but when flushed will look for branches high on the trees to remain safe. In some parts of South America, they are hunted down, yet their populations remain strong in numbers.

White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)

The White-tipped Dove is so similar to the much more common White-winged Dove, that at first glance I doubted I was seeing another species, however upon closer inspection, the lack of white in the wings discards the White-winged; even the juvenile White-winged Dove has the white markings on the wings. Although not shown in the pictures, it has white markings on the tips of the tail that give this species its name. Another key difference is their behavior: White-tipped Dove tend to forage most of the time on the ground, and will climb onto trees only when startled, whereas the White-winged Dove is more arboreal and will come to the ground occasionally to feed on fallen fruit. White-winged Doves are a lot more confident in human presence, while the White-tipped becomes very nervous as people close in and will fly away of danger any time.

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

The White-winged Dove has pretty much colonized Costa Rican cities; every few meters you can hear an individual with its characteristic “Who-cooks-for-you” call. I have seen them perched in utility wires, as well as in any kind of tree. It is also interesting that as they sing, they display by raising their wings and then returning to the normal position. This is the only dove that I know makes a display together with its call. It is very similar to the White-tipped Dove in terms of size and body shape, however the White-tipped does not have white feathers on the wings, has lighter underparts and its tail feathers display white tips, from which it gets its name. The iris is red, with blue orbital skin that contrast very nicely with the dull feather pattern.

Inca Dove (Columbina inca)

The inca dove is a small dove that forages mainly in the ground; it is very common in Ciudad Colón, along with the bigger White-winged Dove. They frequently perch in groups of three or four in branches, and groom each other with their bills. It has a scaled look, which helps them to camouflage in the ground, specially during the dry season when the grass turns yellow. Their iris is red and lacks any distinct orbital skin.

In Costa Rica, there is a legend that essentially considered this species’s song a premonition of the death of a relative. Elders would say that if this dove was singing, then someone on the family would die. Due to this fame, they were hunted for much of the twentieth century by people who believed in the story. Nowadays, their song is very much melancholic, but the legend has not been carried on for the younger generations, so they no longer face this threat.

Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti)

The Ruddy Ground-Dove is a small dove that as implied by the name, forages primarily in the ground, and uses perches when startled or to roost. It is found almost all around the country. The male is distinctive with its reddish color, while the female is a lot duller, nearly gray in coloration. They are very wary of people and will start walking hurriedly if one approaches, then fly away very fast if one is getting too close to be comfortable.