White-tipped Dove

Leptotila verreauxi

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1999
  • Kelly M. Hogan

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Figure 1. Distribution of the White-tipped Dove in North and Central America.

This species also breeds in South America. See text for details.

Adult White-tipped Dove

The White-tipped Dove, also known as the White-fronted Dove, is a common Neotropical species that reaches the northern limit of its range in southern Texas. Despite its extensive range in South America, Central America, Mexico, and north into southern Texas, little information is available on this species anywhere in its range.

To the casual observer in southern Texas, White-tipped Doves are similar in appearance to the more common Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and White-winged Dove (Z. asiatica), with which they occur. However, vocalizations, absence of white wing-bars, and larger size of the White-tipped Dove readily distinguish it from these other species. South of the Rio Grande into Mexico the task of field identification becomes challenging with the occurrence of other similar species in the genus.

In general habit, White-tipped Doves are largely terrestrial, preferring to forage on the ground alone or in pairs, rarely in groups. While foraging for seeds, berries, and occasionally insects, the walk is best described as mechanical with considerable head-nodding. Although common throughout most of its range, and spending the majority of its time on the ground, this species is more often heard than seen, preferring to remain in concealing vegetation or along the edges of clearings and trails. When flushed, individuals produce an audible wing whirr and a noticeable flash of white from the tail, followed by an often short, rapid, swooping flight (Wetmore 1968b). Typically, White-tipped Doves fly only short distances and stop, motionless, on low hanging vegetation or the ground, where they become invisible and require a “practiced” eye to see them (Wetmore 1968b). However, the characteristic call of the species, not unlike the sound produced when a person blows across the mouth of a large empty bottle, frequently betrays a bird's location.

Nesting behavior of the White-tipped Dove appears to vary greatly with latitude. In the tropical and temperate regions of Central and South America, the species nests year-round. In southern Texas, from which most information on this species comes, White-tipped Doves nest in spring and summer (Mar–Aug) peaking May through July. Females lay 2, rarely 3, white or cream-colored eggs in slightly concave nests typically low to the ground (<3 m), situated in dense vegetation and vines. Although no information on fledging success is available for the majority of the species' range, one study in southern Texas suggests that fledging success is relatively high in comparison with other dove species (Boydstun and DeYoung 1987). After fledging, White-tipped Doves apparently move little from their natal localities and are year-round residents.

It is remarkable how little is known about so common and widespread a species. This paucity of knowledge is particularly enigmatic given the importance of the species as a game bird throughout its range.

Recommended Citation

Hogan, K. M. (1999). White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.