White-tipped Dove

Leptotila verreauxi

  • Version: 2.0 — Published July 10, 2018
  • Jordan C. Giese, Kelly M. Hogan, and Heather A. Mathewson

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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.

Formative or Definitive Basic White-tipped Dove.

Medium-sized dove. Sexes nearly identical with only slight variation in plumage color, intensity, and body size. Upperparts, wings, and tail brownish, with light-cream chin and throat, becoming light brown on foreneck, breast, and sides. Plumage on belly lighter, becoming white on undertail-coverts. Crown and nape with iridescent purple sheen. Forehead pale; hence the former vernacular name of White-fronted Dove. Even back feathers and wing coverts without pale tips, and broad secondaries, primaries, and rectrices indicate Definitive Basic Plumage, although some individuals in Formative Plumage (following a complete Preformative Molt) are indistinguishable.

© Tyler Ficker , Texas , United States , 13 March 2018

The White-tipped Dove, formerly known as the White-fronted Dove, is a non-migratory Neotropical species that reaches the northern limit of its range in southern Texas. It has the largest range of any native Columbid in the New World and is the only representative of the genus Leptotila in the United States. The White-tipped Dove is elusive, and despite its extensive range in the Americas, relatively little is known about its biology. Most published information originates from research in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas.

In general habit, the White-tipped Dove is 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, 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 (1). Typically, the White-tipped Dove flies only short distances and stops, motionless, on low hanging vegetation or the ground, where it is becomes less visible once again (1). However, the characteristic call of the species, not unlike the sound produced when a person blows across the mouth of a 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 the Neotropics, the species nests year-round. In southern Texas, the White-tipped Dove nests in spring, summer, and early fall (March–September) peaking May through July. Females lay two, rarely three, white or cream-colored eggs in slightly concave nests at varying heights, situated in dense vegetation and vines. Information on reproductive success is limited throughout the species range. One study in southern Texas suggests that White-tipped Dove nest survival is strongly limited by depredation and nests are most vulnerable during incubation (2). The species is year-round resident and young seem to move little from their natal localities. Low dispersal rates may explain low occupancy of seemingly suitable patches of habitat (3).

Despite its designation as a game bird in Texas in 1984, insufficient research has been devoted to the conservation and management of the White-tipped Dove. There is presently no effective program for population monitoring.

Recommended Citation

Giese, J. C., K. M. Hogan, and H. A. Mathewson (2018). White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.whtdov.02