I received an email and attached photograph this past week from Elizabethton resident Carol Williams.
“We have a pair of doves in our yard that are different from most doves,” she wrote in her email. “We are curious as to what type they are.”
When I opened Carol’s photo, I recognized immediately the pale dove as a Eurasian Collared-Dove and was able to write her back with the identification of her mystery bird.
She sent me another email providing additional information.
“We live on the lower end of Blue Springs about a mile in from Hunter,” she wrote.
She noted that about seven years ago Gary Wallace brought a group out from Milligan College to look for them.
Gary is a biology professor at Milligan College as well as a fellow member of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society.
“I don’t think they ever saw them that day,” Williams wrote.
“They have been here for at least that long, always in pairs, and come back every summer,” she added. “I don’t think I have ever seen them during the winter.
She was also glad to learn the identity of the her visitors. “We have been curious for a long time,” she informed me.
The Eurasian Collared-Dove arrived in Northeast Tennessee in 2004. Rick Knight, a well-known birder and another fellow member of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of TOS, found the first Eurasian Collared-Dove in the region on Aug. 30, 2004, in the Limestone community of Washington County.
Wallace also confirmed the Eurasian Collared-Doves that showed up in Blue Springs in Carter County in late 2005.
In his book, The Birds of Northeast Tennessee, Knight predicted that area residents will probably see more of these doves in the future.
“This non-native species will undoubtedly increase in the region at the continental population increases,” he wrote in the book’s entry on the Eurasian Collared-Dove.
The only native dove to Northeast Tennessee is the Mourning Dove. The non-native Rock Pigeon, which has been established in North America for centuries, is also present in the region, particularly in cities and towns.
The Eurasian Collared-Dove is only the most recent example of birds expanding into Northeast Tennessee.
The House Finch, now a rather common bird at feeders in the region, didn’t arrive until 1972. The first House Finch sightings for House Finch took place in Bristol followed by Kingsport.
The House Finch, a species native to the western United States, owes its introduction to the eastern half of the country to the illegal pet trade. In the 1940s, these birds were captured illegally and marketed as “Hollywood Finches.” When federal authorities cracked down on the illegal activity, some pet store owners in New York City released their finches into the wild. The birds survived, thrived and spread.
People who offer housing for Eastern Bluebirds have become familiar with another cavity-nesting bird in recent decades. The Tree Swallow did not breed in Northeast Tennessee until the 1986. Knight found nesting Tree Swallows at Austin Springs in Washington County on June 14, 1986. The number of nesting Tree Swallows in the region has increased dramatically in the nearly 30 years since that first breeding record.
Tree Swallows, however, arrived under their own power, expanding into an area that offered the resources they needed to thrive. They didn’t require a “helping hand” from humans to push into the region.
Perhaps the most famous non-native species to explode across the North American continent is the European Starling. These are the glossy “black” birds that makes themselves at home in parking lots as well as lawns across the country. The first Tennessee record of a European Starling took place in Bluff City on Dec. 12, 1921. The European Starling is now one of the most common birds in the region.
In an article titled “100 Years of the Starling” by Ted Gup published in Time magazine on Sept. 1, 1990, the European Starling observed a milestone of sorts.
Gup placed the blame for this bird’s introduction in 1890 on “an eccentric drug manufacturer named Eugene Schieffelin.”
According to the article, Schieffelin released about 60 European Starlings in New York City’s Central Park. In 1891, he introduced another 40 of these birds into the environment. His motivation? Schieffelin wanted to introduce into North America every bird mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare.
The rest is, as they say, history. The European Starling found a new home, ranging across the continent in ecosystems as diverse as Florida and Alaska. Their spread across the nation also adversely affected some cavity-nesting native birds, such as the Eastern Bluebird and the Red-headed Woodpecker.
This brings me back to the Eurasian Collared-Dove: Will this new species competing with other native species cause any unforeseen consequences? There’s some evidence that this dove has settled into a niche unoccupied by native Mourning Doves and non-native but long-established Rock Pigeons.
It’s an attractive bird, but the jury’s still out on whether any undesirable consequences will become associated with its presence in new terrain. There’s no documented negative impact from its expansion, but these doves can be aggressive at feeders and may chase off other birds.
If anyone knows of other Eurasian Collared-Doves in Carter County, please call me at 297-9077 or email me at email@example.com. Documenting their arrival and spread throughout the region will provide important information for the area’s natural history.
I’m still enjoying observations at home. Wood Thrushes are finally beginning to sing in the early evenings from the surrounding woodlands at my home on Simerly Creek Road in Roan Mountain.
The male Northern Parula has tried singing from every elevated perch he can find to attract a mate.
The Tree Swallow eggs have now hatched, which is keeping the parents busy foraging for food. I’m not sure if the Eastern Bluebirds have hatched. The female bluebird built such an impressive nest that it’s not possible to open the nesting box and peer inside. From her behavior, I think she’s still incubating eggs.
I also heard from John McKee this past week. He stopped by the office to swap some bird stories and deliver a couple of photographs of a “balding” Common Grackle. The grackle, which is picking seed off the ground in the photo, does indeed show some white bald spots in its otherwise glossy brown-black plumage. Most of the spots are confined to the bird’s head.
John also told me that he found last week’s column on Brown Thrashers particularly timely as he recently discovered that some Brown Thrashers at his home have built a nest in a quince bush.
To share a sighting, ask a question or make a comment, call me at 297-9077 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. I am also on Facebook.