PEI

Rare bird sighted on P.E.I.

After a day of birding on P.E.I., an Island woman returned home to find a rare white-winged dove at her backyard feeder.

'It was kind of a shock to see that bird in the backyard'

Nicole Murtagh has been thrilled to see this white-winged dove at her backyard feeder several times this past week. (Nicole Murtagh)

After a day of birding on P.E.I., an Island woman returned home to find a rare white-winged dove at her backyard feeder in Stratford. 

Nicole Murtagh has been an avid birder for about five years and is always on the lookout for uncommon species.

 I think it's just kind of an accident — it got lost and ended up here.— Nicole Murtagh

"It was a very unusual sighting for sure and it was a bird that I'd never seen myself, so it was very exciting for me," said Murtagh. 

"This white-winged dove is just sitting on the platform feeder in the backyard with all the other doves and all the other common birds, starlings, things like that. It almost blended in." 

Fellow birder Dwaine Oakley picked the dove out of the crowd — he's an instructor with Holland College's wildlife conservation technology program. 

"He knew the field marks to look for and it stood out to him," she said.

"It was kind of a shock to see that bird in the backyard." 

'Quite far from its home'

This is only the third time a white-winged dove has been documented on P.E.I. — they normally make their home in the southern United States, Mexico and Central America.

This dove may be chilly here as the breed usually makes its home in the southern United States and Mexico. (Nicole Murtagh)

"It's tough to say where it might have come from, but the typical range for this species is very far south," Murtagh said. "It's quite far from its home." 

Although the species has been expanding its range further north in the U.S., Murtagh believes this bird was likely blown off course in high winds during migration.

"This particular bird, I think it's just kind of an accident — it got lost and ended up here." 

Murtagh and Oakley have seen the bird in the same backyard several times this week. 

"He looked pretty chilled out there in the snow — they typically live in more desert habitat, so it's very out of its element, for sure." 

White-winged doves do not have full white wings. They are a plump, medium-sized dove — about the same size as a robin — light brown all over with a white stripe along the underside of the wing, darker-tip wings and a dark line on the cheek.  

'Somewhere to hunker down'

Murtagh believes the dove should be able to survive, since there is plenty of food at local feeders and other birds are not pushing it around. 

White-winged doves prefer warm climates like that of Tucson, Ariz. (Christina Stark/Facebook)

"If it can find somewhere to hunker down on the cold nights — it's very hard to say." 

Murtagh doesn't know if the dove is a male or a female, and she hasn't given it a name although she is considering it.

She is a recent graduate of the wildlife conservation program at the University of New Brunswick.

She thinks more young people are becoming interested in birding as a hobby because it is a fun way to enjoy nature. 

"There's been some excitement," in the bird community about the sighting, she said. "A few people have come trying to get a look at it ... those who were really into birding were definitely excited." 

Oakley urges anyone who spots rare species like the white-winged dove to report them to Nature P.E.I., which tracks sightings.

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About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca