Ruddy Ground-Dove
Calipatria, Imperial County, California
27-28 December 2002
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 28 December 2002 by Joseph Morlan. All rights reserved.
After good luck with Sprague's Pipits and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Robbie Fischer and I decided to try for up to five Ruddy Ground-Doves which had been reported at the west end of Calipatria. We arrived late-morning under clear skies and no wind. As we were parking the car at the intersection of Eddins and Sperry, I noticed Guy McCaskie driving up with Brennan Mulrooney. We joined them enjoying the numerous Eurasian Collared-Doves when Guy McCaskie spotted a single Ruddy Ground-Dove in one of the Eucalyptus trees at the small pig pen at the northwest corner of the intersection. Guy showed it to me in his scope but it flew before I could get a good look. He identified it as an immature male. We stayed a while longer, but were unable to locate the bird again.

The next day, we decided to try for them again first thing in the morning. The weather was still clear with no wind. At first there were no small doves around the pig pen, but Robbie found up to 15 Inca Doves and 3 Common Ground-Doves adjacent to a junk yard a half block to the south. We spent much time going through these birds, finally concluding that there were no Ruddy Ground-Doves present. We gave up, but drove slowly past the pig pen on the way out, when I saw a male Ruddy Ground-Dove fly in. We set up a scope and eventually saw four Ruddy Ground-Doves together on the ground on the back side of the pig pen. One bird seemed more brightly colored than the others and one seemed much duller. Two birds were intermediate in intensity. McCaskie had told us that he thought there was one adult male, two immature males and two females. I suspect we saw the same birds he did except we only saw one female. I took several photos which are reproduced here. They show the three brighter birds. I was unable to get a photo of the female.

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

These were small doves, similar in size and shape to nearby Common Ground-Doves. They had short, thin all dark bills, slightly decurved. A silver-colored crown and head, contrasted with a warm-brown body. The dark eyes sometimes showed a reddish glint in certain light and they had a narrow gray eyering. The chest was a maroon color with no barring. When perched the underside of the tail was black and the feet were pink. The back was warm brown with dark bars across the coverts and dark spots on the scapulars. The birds lacked the obvious scaling on the chest and body that the Common Ground-Doves showed, but one bird had faint scaling on the crown when seen at close range.

In flight the wings showed a strong reddish flash, but the underwing linings appeared black.

The female was similar, but lacked the warm maroon tones, being a paler grayish-brown color overall. However it lacked the scaling on the chest and showed obvious black spots on the scapulars, unlike the female Common Ground-Doves.

These are my fourth Ruddy Ground-Doves in California. My previous sightings have been in San Diego, Death Valley and Blythe. These are my first for Imperial County.