White-winged doves get their name from the white wing bars along their wings, which are easily visible while the doves are in flight. No other dove species in the United States possesses this unique trait. Adult white-winged doves are physically stunning. Adult doves have blue eye-rings that develop during their first 5 months. Adult plumage consists of brownish feathers while juveniles are typically gray-brown. There are about 12 subspecies of the white-winged dove, of which four breed in the southern United States.
The western white-winged dove and the eastern white-winged dove are two subspecies that have been studied the most in Texas. The eastern whitewinged dove is the most common subspecies found in South Texas. Both of these subspecies have “invaded” further north into Texas in recent years, moving north out of Mexico and the Rio Grande valley. The eastern white-winged dove’s population status within its historical range of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas has been transformed over the past century from an over abundant rural species to one of lower numbers because of habitat loss.
Although it appears that the high numbers of whitewinged doves found in the LRGV of Texas in the 1900s will not return, geographic range expansion and exploitation of urban areas outside their historical range in Texas have allowed this species to flourish. Just ask the citzens in cities such as Austin, Temple, Waco, and Dallas. This increase in population size has made for great dove hunting reports, and hunters are not complaining.
Many studies have been conducted in the LRGV of Texas to learn about the ecology of the eastern white-winged dove, much of which has been supported through funds by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s White-winged Dove Stamp. Through management efforts and the white-winged dove’s ability to expand into and exploit urban areas, this species has increased their overall numbers in the past 50 years across its geographic range. One study suggested that over 50% of the white-winged doves now occur outside the historical range of the LRGV.