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Know Your Doves

As a hunter, it is your legal and moral responsibility to identify your targets before you shoot. There are at least eight species of doves and pigeons that occur in Texas, of which only four are legal to hunt. The following descriptions are to help you recognize these eight species and may prevent you from making an embarrassing and costly mistake.



Unprotected Birds

(May Be Hunted Anytime)

rock dove

Rock Dove

Common in cities and around farms. Large in size and varies in color from gray, brown, to all white. All have white rump patch. They generally fly in flocks and do not readily mix with other wild birds. It is an introduced species and is often raised by individuals as are other varieties of racing and fancy pigeons. 

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian collared-doves are bigger, more aggressive and more prolific than our native doves. It is pale to sandy gray, with a slight pinkish shade to the head and breast. Their bills are black, the irises of their eyes are red, and their legs and feet are mauve. Their tails are white when viewed from the underside, and the ends are squared off (rather than pointed). The "collar" is a narrow black crescent around the nape of the neck, fringed with an off-white outline.

Protected Birds

(May NOT Be Hunted Anytime)

red billed pigeon

Red-billed Pigeon

Similar in size to the domestic pigeon. Bluish gray to purple in color. Bill is reddish. Uncommon in Rio Grande Valley but can be found occasionally near larger brush tracts adjacent to Rio Grande. Will fly with whitewings. Larger size is good key. Can be easily misidentified. 

Legal Game Birds

(May Be Hunted During Open Seasons)
mourning dove

Mourning Dove

Slightly smaller than white-winged dove with long pointed tail. Generally seen in flights of one or two birds. May mix with flights of whitewings but can be readily distinguished by its more rapid wing beat, erratic flight path, and pointed tail. Common throughout Texas with large concentration in farm and ranch country. 

white wing dove

White-winged Dove

Larger than a mourning dove with conspicuous white bar on wing and a long, moderately rounded tail. Generally in flocks during September before fall migration to Central America. Common along the Rio Grande and increasing in number throughout South, Central, and West Texas. 

white tipped dove

White-tipped (White-fronted)Dove

Slightly larger than white-winged dove with cinnamon colored wing linings (underside) and large, moderately rounded tail. Size and shape are similar to whitewing. South Texas is the only place in the United States where this nonmigratory dove can be found. Common adjacent to brush areas and citrus groves. Generally seen as single bird flying close to the ground. 

band tailed pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Locally common in oak and pine woods in the mountains of the Trans-Pecos Region. Large size, white neck band, and broad gray tail band distinguish this bird from all others.


Remember, all birds except Rock Dove (Domestic Pigeons), Eurasian Collared-Doves, Starlings, English Sparrows, Grackles, Ravens, Red-winged Blackbirds, Cowbirds, and Crows are protected under state law and the fine for shooting a protected bird can be from $10 to $200 per bird. Check federal laws for additional regulations.

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