Invasive dove seen in Atlanta as Audubon counts 100-plus species

By David Pendered

An invasive bird that is showing up in Atlanta traces its lineage to the Middle East. The Eurasian Collared-Dove made its way from the Bahamas to Florida in the 1970s and now is colonizing North America to the point that birds are spending the winter in Alaska, according to results of the annual Christmas Bird Count by the Atlanta Audubon Society.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, audubon

Spotted in Atlanta in December 2017, the Eurasian Collared-Dove is an invasive species that migrated from the Bahamas to Florida and now makes Alaska its home. Credit: projectfeederwatch.wordpress.com

In metro Atlanta, the Eurasian Collared-Dove made the list of “notable birds” reported by the group of 70 volunteers who spread out across intown Atlanta on Dec. 30, 2017 to count the number of species and birds they saw. Overall, volunteers counted some 40,500 individual birds representing more than 100 species.

The Eurasian Collared-Dove was not reported by other Audubon birders in the region, who were located in the Marietta, Peachtree City and Roswell areas.

The Atlanta team including the dove sighting in a description of, “hard-to-find-in-the-city birds.” Others that made the Atlanta list include the Wild Turkey, Wilson’s Snipe, American Kestrel, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Yellowthroat, and Peregrine Falcon.

Although the Eurasian Collared-Dove is an invasive species, it has not been identified as a threat to native species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In fact, the FWS does not even track the harvest of the species. There is no bag limit on the species according to a 2014 report by denverpost.com, which quoted hunters describing the bird on a blog in these terms: “They are good eatin’. Better ‘n chicken.”

The Aububon’s Guide to North American Birds describes the species as a:

  • “Newcomer in North America, spreading rapidly. Possible interactions with native species not yet well understood, but no obvious negative impacts have been noted so far.”
audubon, christmas bird count

Volunteer bird counters gathered at the Atlanta History Center in December 2017 to help with the annual Christmas Bird Count. The Atlanta group discovered a Eurasian Collared-Dove in the city. Credit: Atlanta Audubon Society

The species may even have a beneficial effect on native species, according to a report by Cornell University’s FeederWatch blog:

  • “Many invasive species have a negative impact on native species, particularly species that are similar to the invader. Contrary to expectations, however, researchers found that the abundance of native dove species was generally greater at sites with collared-doves than at sites without collared-doves.”

The Eurasian Collared-Dove wasn’t the only unusual bird to be spotted. And it was in a much broader flock spotted by a total of 159 volunteers who watched the skies as part of an Audubon tradition that dates to 1900.

That’s when ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early leader of the Aududon Society, proposed creating a holiday tradition of counting birds instead of hunting them.

“2017 was a great year for Christmas Bird Counts,” Nikki Belmonte, executive director of Atlanta Audubon Society and leader of the Roswell Christmas Bird Count Circle, said in a statement.

“It was cold, but not nearly as rainy as in 2016 — thankfully, because it would have been snow! Our volunteers just put on an extra layer and counted the birds,” Belmonte said.

Here are results of the 2017 Christmas Bird Count in metro Atlanta:

Dec. 14, 2017– Roswell

  • Total number of species: 93
  • Total number of birds: 8,500
  • Number of volunteers: 37
  • Notable Sightings: “The most frequent bird spotted was Canada Goose, with 1,126 individuals reported,” Belmonte said. “Some of the notable species were Sedge Wren, Common Loon, American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, and 12 species of ducks, including Northern Pintail.”
audubon, eastern meadowlark

The Eastern Meadowlark frequently is photographed while singing. The species was spotted in intown Atlanta in December 2017, though the species is not typically found jn the city. Credit: tringa.org

Dec. 16 – Marietta

  • Total number of species sighted: 93
  • Total individual birds counted: 8,173
  • Number of volunteers: 43
  • Notable Sightings: Loggerhead Shrike, Virginia Rail, Sora, and Greater Scaup

Dec. 17 – Peachtree City

  • Total number of species sighted: 90
  • Total individual birds counted: 7,698
  • Number of volunteers: 17
  • Notable sightings: “A Sora and Greater Yellowlegs were new to the count, and we were greeted by four Bald Eagles at daylight, and nine more were spotted at one time later that day along with 35 Great Blue Herons,” said Brock Hutchins, Peachtree City CBC leader.

Dec. – In-town Atlanta

  • Total number of species: 93 (new high count for this circle)
  • Total number of birds: 17,000
  • Number of volunteers: 70
  • Notable birds:  “We had a marked increase in waterfowl this year, including Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, and Double-crested Cormorant,” said Joy Carter, In-town CBC leader. We also had some hard-to-find-in-the-city birds, including Wild Turkey, Wilson’s Snipe, American Kestrel, Eastern Meadowlark, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Common Yellowthroat, and Peregrine Falcon.”

Note to readers: The Atlanta Audubon Society is seeking volunteers for the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 16-19. For more information visit the event website.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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