King Salmon Sees a Unique, And Invasive, Visitor From Afar

A collared dove in the U.K. Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, U.K. Accessed via the Wikimedia Creative Commons.
A collared dove in the U.K. Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, U.K. Accessed via the Wikimedia Creative Commons.

An invasive species of dove was spotted in King Salmon Tuesday afternoon. It’s the farthest west the Eurasian collared dove has been found in the U.S.

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Matthew McFarland was working outside of the inn he co-owns when he heard a whistling from the porch behind him.

“And I heard that noise, that distinctive noise that doves make. So I said ‘Oh, it’s just a dove!’ But then I thought to myself, ‘well, we don’t have doves here,’” McFarland says.

McFarland thought he must be mistaken. But his cousin, who was working nearby, heard it too.

“He poked his head around the corner out and asked if we have doves here. I said, no, we don’t have doves here at all! And he said well that was a dove! So we went around the house and it had flown up and landed on one of the power lines.”

McFarland quickly took a few photos. It was a gray dove, with a big black band across the back of its neck and a straight edge on the bottom of its tail.

He was pretty sure he knew what kind of dove this was – he’d seen them when he lived in Arizona – but he called for backup just in case.

“Yeah, so we got a call from him, and our office is only about 200 meters from that site…. So several of us went out and confirmed the sighting.”

That’s Stuart Fety, a biological technician with Fish and Wildlife in King Salmon.

“It was in fact a Eurasion collared dove, surprisingly enough.”

Fety says this particular species has a long history of moving in where it shouldn’t. It’s native to Europe and Asia, but first became established in the U.S. in 1982.

“…when they escaped from a pet shop in Florida when it was burgled,” Fety says. “And they were first seen in Alaska in 2009 along the Denali Highway… and they’ve kinda rapidly expanded their range.”

Until now, the furthest west the dove had been seen was in Homer, a few weeks ago.

So how can these doves thrive in habitats ranging from Florida to Alaska? Fety says they’re just really good at finding a niche wherever humans live.

“They’re well-adapted to utilizing food put out by people in their feeders and just utilizing resources around urban or developed areas.”

Fety says Fish & Wildlife isn’t too worried about the dove.  Unlike some invasive species, like, say, Chena Slough elodea, or Adak Island rats, he says the Eurasian collared dove doesn’t really threaten native wildlife, and he was planning on leaving it alone.

But McFarland says an ecologist friend told him differently… her recommendation has also been to shoot it, cause it’s invasive. And I was told there’s no season or limit on exotic invasives.

As many a Lower 48 hunter will attest, doves are quite a tasty prey. And whether this dove is a lone wanderer, or a forerunner for a whole new population, birdwatchers in Bristol Bay can keep an eye, an ear, and maybe a shotgun out for this unique visitor.