Plain-breasted Ground Dove – new to our area

Plain-breasted Ground Dove (Columbina minuta): Tortolita menuda; Zwergtäubchen; Colombe pygmée

This tiny ground-dove may be the smallest dove in the world by weight. It certainly is hard to find in the Turrialba area, even when you know that it’s here. All local sightings of this species are recent and from the vicinity of the Angostura Dam, where it has mostly been seen crouching in grassy fields. Only single birds or pairs, never flocks, have been reported. Costa Rica has 5 different species of ground dove, all of which seem now to have lost the hyphen in their English name. The English name is more helpful than the ‘dwarf’ connotation of some other languages in distinguishing the species from others, such as, in particular, the Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina). Actually, the latter species has to my knowledge never been reported from the Turrialba area. Both of them are mostly found in the drier north-western portion of the country.

Male Plain-breasted Ground Dove sitting up nicely at Florencia, the only local spot where it can reliably be found; photo by John Beer

Our sighting from last week, however, was under much more difficult conditions as our bird hid in thick grass in the field at Florencia that is now reserved as the future site of Turrialba’s new hospital. I had been unsure of my former sightings there and was now able to tick this one off as a ‘lifer’. Note the colour of the bill, which differs from the description in some field guides. And now, for comparison purposes, here’s a beautiful shot of the only marginally larger Common Ground Dove:

Common Ground Dove at Santa Elena Peninsula, Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste; photo by John Beer

The scaled breast and reddish bill, especially the base, help to separate this species from the Plain-breasted, but remember that this elsewhere often very common bird has not yet been reported from our area.

The designation of Florencia as the site of Turrialba’s much-needed new hospital will mean loss of a habitat that has brought sightings of a number of species previously not found in Costa Rica at all. However, their appearance in the last 30+ years is principally linked to deforestation. Of the 19 species we found there that day no fewer than 7 of them unfortunately fit that category. All are continuously expanding their ranges.

Here is the list in question:

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