Ruddy Ground-Dove
Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley, Inyo County
Thursday, 22 November 2001
Joseph Morlan

Robbie Fischer called me on the radio to tell me she had just found Ruddy Ground-Doves near the motel. I was already on my way back and arrived within five minutes The birds had flown, but a single male Ruddy Ground-Dove flew down out of a tamarisk and fed in a wet area just north of the 700 unit of the motel complex. Soon another male joined it. We followed the birds around the area seeing at least one female in addition to the two males. Finally all the birds flew into a tamarisk in the row just west of the motel. Two males and two females perched next to each other and a third male joined them while we watched them preen very close together for about 15 minutes. When a Prairie Falcon flew over, the birds flushed to a low fence adjacent to the 16th tee of the golf course.

The following description is based on notes made while watching the birds:

These were small doves which I judged to be about 1.5 times the size of adjacent White-crowned Sparrows. They had short squarish tails, thin slightly decurved dark-gray bills, and lacked any scaling on the head or body.

The males showed a pale face, throat and forehead becoming blue-gray on the crown and nape. The upperparts were dark rusty. The wing coverts and scapulars showed dark spots forming parallel black vertical stripes. The breast was pale reddish-brown becoming darker and more pink on the belly.

In flight and while preening the black underwing and marginal coverts were visible. Rusty margins to the inner webs of the primaries were visible when the birds flew.

The upperside of the tail appeared rusty blending into a dark tip, but the underside appeared black contrasting with dark undertail coverts.

The eyes appeared dark; we were unable to detect any red color in their eyes. The legs were very short and pink in color.

The females were much grayer and paler below, darker above. Their undertail coverts contrasting with the pale belly, while little contrast was visible in this area on the males. Their outermost tail-feathers where slightly shorter than the others and showed a small white fringe on the outer corner of the outer web extending proximally along the outer web about a fifth of the way up the tail. Their uppertail coverts were gray-brown with a slightly yellowish cast, blending into the dark tail tip.