Spotted Dove

Streptopelia chinensis

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 2001
  • Kimball L. Garrett and Ronald L. Walker

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Spotted Dove in California

Map concentrates on California and adjacent Baja California.  This species also breeds in southeastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands (see Fig. 2), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. See text for details.

Adult Spotted Dove; Los Angeles, CA; September

; photographer Brian E. Small

This large Asiatic dove was deliberately introduced from Southeast Asia to the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s and into southern California around 1915. It rapidly became common and widespread on all of the major islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago and through much of the urban, suburban, and agricultural landscapes of southern California west of the deserts. An important game species in many parts of its native and introduced range, the Spotted Dove was considered “a favorite food at Chinese banquets” (Eaton 1957b: 65). It is a popular game species in the Hawaiian Islands, but it is rarely hunted in its largely urban range in California.

The Spotted Dove was originally named Columba chinensis by Scopoli (Scopoli 1786) on the basis of specimens from Canton, China. Its general build is stocky, with relatively short wings and a rather long, broad tail. The outstanding plumage character is a “necklace” of black, tan, and white spots on the back of the neck of all postjuvenile plumages; these necklace feathers show a unique bifurcated shape and account for the frequent alternative English name “Lace-necked Dove” (and the less commonly used “Necklace Dove” and “Pearl-necked Dove”). The nominate subspecies is also known as the Chinese Spotted Dove, after the species' type locality in Canton. Other alternative names include “Spotted Turtle-Dove” and “Indian Dove” (the latter for the subspecies suratensis of the Indian subcontinent).

The native range of this species includes southern Asia from eastern Afghanistan and India eastward through Indochina and southeastern China, and south through the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, the Lesser Sundas, and more recently the southwest Philippine Islands. There are 3 main subspecies groups: (1) the nominate chinensis group, from which birds established in Hawaiian Islands and California originate; (2) the suratensis group of small forms with heavy dorsal patterning and pale underparts, in India and adjacent regions; and (3) the geographically intermediate tigrina group, which is also intermediate in appearance between the chinensis and suratensis groups. Various subspecies have been introduced into other parts of the world besides California and the Hawaiian Islands, including Australia and New Zealand.

The Spotted Dove is representative of ecological manipulation through the introduction of nonnative taxa, a situation that is so prominent in the Hawaiian Islands and, to a less but still significant degree, in parts of the North American continent such as southern California. It is largely a bird of nonnatural habitats in southern California (urban and suburban plantings, ranchyards, orchards, etc.). It is more widespread in the Hawaiian Islands, with populations occupying some native woodland but generally not penetrating the remaining intact natural forests at high elevations.

There is strong evidence of population declines in California, especially since the late 1980s. Although Spotted Doves remain abundant in much of the greater Los Angeles urban area, the species has withdrawn from some of its former range along the coast northwest of Los Angeles, and in interior valleys. Populations may still be expanding in the Central Valley, however, and possibly also in northwestern Baja California. Bearing close scrutiny are the potential ecological dynamics with the congeneric Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), now locally established and rapidly increasing in central and southern California.

There have been few detailed or comprehensive studies of this species. As a game species in the Hawaiian Islands, it was the subject of survey work by Schwartz and Schwartz (Schwartz and Schwartz 1949, Schwartz and Schwartz 1951a); one California population was monitored in a banding study by H. E. McClure (McClure 1992, unpubl. data).

Recommended Citation

Garrett, K. L. and R. L. Walker (2001). Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.