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Eared Dove - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies stenura
Photo by NJLarsen
St. Vincent, January 2007

Alternative name: Violet-eared Dove

Zenaida auriculata


Male left, female right
Photo © by Orozimbo
Lins, SP, Brazil, February 2018

Length: 22-25 cm (8½-9¾ ins) in north, some southern birds larger.
The tail looks short, especially on the standing bird. Both upper and undersides have a warm brown color, with a few black spots on the folded wing.
The head has a grey crown (brown in female), black line going diagonally down behind the eye, and a second parallel line further down the side of the head. At least on some subspecies, the area behind the eye shows a violet color.
The underparts including the undertail-coverts are brown, and the tail is tipped with cinnamon in northern populations, white in southern ones; subterminally, there is a black band.
The bill is black and the legs dark red.

Immatures are greyish-brown, very dull, with pale barring.

Similar Species

The northern populations completely lack the white colors shown by Zenaida Dove (especially in flight) while southern populations have white in the tail. Zenaida Dove is overlapping at least part of the northern range and has a very similar overall build. In this region, another difference is in the underside of the tail of a bird sitting on a branch: Zenaida has a black band across the tail surrounded by white while Eared Dove is uniform reddish buff in this area.

Eared Dove is smaller then the Mourning Dove and lacks the long graduated tail of that species.


Photo by MKC
Guararema/SP, Brazil, December 2007

Breeds in South America from Argentina and Chile to Colombia and Venezuela, and in the Caribbean in the Netherlands Antilles and the Lesser Antilles north to St. Lucia and Barbados. Records exist for observations on Martinique and Panama.

Its occurrence in Trinidad and Tobago and the Lesser Antilles seems to be of recent date[2][3].

Eared Dove displays seasonal movements.


The Eared Dove, Mourning Dove and Socorro Dove are closely related; in the past some authorities have described them as forming a superspecies.


Subspecies hypoleuca
Photo by Mariano Mavila
Lima, Peru

Eleven subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • Z. a. stenura: Lesser Antilles, Trinidad and central Colombia to Venezuela and northern Brazil
  • Z. a. hypoleuca: Arid littoral of western Ecuador and western Peru
  • Z. a. caucae: Western Colombia (Cauca Valley)
  • Z. a. antioquiae: North-central Andes of Colombia (Antioquia)
  • Z. a. pentheria: Eastern Andes of Colombia to w Venezuela (Merida)
  • Z. a. vinaceorufa: Netherlands Antilles (Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire)
  • Z. a. jessieae : Bank of lower Amazon near Santarem
Subspecies pentheria
Photo by Jose Ramon
Llano del Hato, Merida State, Venezuela, February 2015
  • Z. a. marajoensis: Maraj¢ and Mexiana islands in estuary of the Amazon
  • Z. a. noronha: North-eastern Brazil (Maranh?o, Piau¡, Bahia); Fernando de Noronha Island
  • Z. a. chrysauchenia: Bolivia to central Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina to Tierra del Fuego
  • Z. a. auriculata: Central Chile (Atacama to Llanquihue) and west-central Argentina


Eared Doves are found in patchy woodland and arid to semi-arid scrubland up to 2000 m, in Bolivia up to 4400 m and 3500 m in other parts of the Andes. They usually avoid tropical forests. Southern populations seems to prefer dry areas while birds of Trinidad and Tobago occur in wet areas such as savannahs and mangrove. In pastures and cultivated areas, Eared Doves are seen as an agricultural pest. In Brazil they have spread into the open deforested areas.


Sometimes occur in large flocks. Flight is strong.


Displaying; raising its tail and lowering its head
Photo by martinuk
Iguacu National Park, Parana State, Brazil, March 2016

85% of the diet consists of seed from cultivated plants, such as millet, wheat and sorghum. Only a small portion comes from wild plants such as grasses. Sunflower, peanuts and maize are also consumed in small amounts in the countries of Colombia and Venezuela, where these plants grow as weeds in the sorghum fields.


Eared Doves build a small stick nest and depending on location, it can be placed in a tree, on the ground or even on rocks amongst nesting seabirds. They are usually solitary nesters, but in the cultivated areas of Argentina there can be colonies of 1 to 5 million birds. There are 2 white eggs and incubation takes 14 days.


Similar to Mourning Dove.
Voice is very deep and can be heard at all times of the day; a muted, mournful whoo’oOO...hu...hu...hu


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Raffaele et al. 1998. Birds of the West Indies. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0713649054
  3. Richard ffrench. 1991. A guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Comstock/Cornell Paperbacks. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2
  4. Restall et al. 2006. Birds of Northern South America. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300124156
  5. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2016)

Recommended Citation

External Links

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