Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Zenaida Dove!!

On the 21st of February just after I had left for a 10 day birding trip in Mexico (blog post soon to follow), a zenaida dove (ABA code 5) was found at Long Key SP in the Florida Keys.  This is the same park that 2 Key West quail-dove were being seen for several months at the end of 2014 and into 2015.  I attended a documentary film festival in Missouri on my way back from Mexico, so I was not able to go to look for the zenaida dove until yesterday.

I flew down to Miami Sunday evening, and was at Long Key State Park when they opened at 8 AM yesterday.  Neil Hayward had sent me detailed info on where to stake out the bird.  And stake out is the correct term since it does return to the same part of the Golden Orb trail to feed, but only for a couple of minutes, and often just once or twice a day.

When I first arrived, I saw a dove down the trail, but it walked into the woods before I could get my binocs on it.  I walked up to the spot I had seen it last, but it was not visible.  Then I heard a dove calling, and found what turned out to be a common ground dove perched some distance away in a tree.

It was a pretty morning with some breeze coming off the water, so I settled in to watch for the zenaida.  I only had 2 catbirds and a pair of cardinals at first.  Then an ovenbird and a prairie warbler brightened my day.  Fortunately since it was a Monday, there were not a lot of hikers on the trail to scare off birds from coming in to seek seed and grit.  An occasional kayaker would come paddling by, and overhead 3 osprey would make periodic forays.  Of course now and again brown pelicans or magnificent frigatebirds would sail by.

About 10 AM I had my first mourning doves arrive to feed.  The zenaida dove looks very similar, but it is a bit bigger, a bit browner/darker, has a small white patch on the trailing edge of its wing, and a tail that is a bit shorter and more square compared to the mourning dove (photo below taken by Neil Hayward).

About 1 PM 3 birders joined me.  They were from MN, CO and CA. Just before 2 PM we suddenly noticed a dove feeding on the edge of the trail.  At first we could only see its head and the front half of its body which looked very similar to a mourning dove except it was browner.  We kept waiting for it to move into full view, and when it did we knew that it was the zenaida dove. It flushed into the woods, but soon returned for even better looks before flying off again.

When it did not return a third time, I decided it was time to make my way back up to Miami to catch my evening flight home.  I stopped at Everglades NP for a short walk at the Anhinga Trail.  It was pretty slow birdwise, but there were a few alligators.  Getting back to the airport proved uneventful, but I can not say the same for my flight home which departed 2 hours late.  I was finally in bed just after 3 AM.

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